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Dodgers TV 'blueout' a long way from end despite Congress' attention

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Standoff over Dodgers TV deal more about principle than money, making it fuzzier to fix, Chris Erskine writes

Lawmakers, having cured all else that ails us, have now turned their high beams on this Dodgers TV standoff. I suspect relief is just years away.

Not that we don't applaud their efforts this week. First, they called on the Federal Communications Commission to nudge the parties toward a deal. Next, lawmakers called for binding arbitration.

Time Warner Cable is seeking $4 to $5 a customer per month for Dodgers coverage, with the price rising annually.

By nature a futurist, by default an optimist, I support these Hail Mary attempts to prod the process along. Yet, you probably realize this isn't about something as simple as the monthly price. It's about cable and satellite providers taking a stand against Dodgers games being ram-rodded down disinterested viewers' throats. When DirecTV talks about a la carte pricing, the company is talking about Dodgers games — take it or leave it.

This is about principle, not money, something fuzzier and more difficult for many corporations to embrace.

Couldn't see this coming? Yes, you could, the moment News Corp. executive Chase Carey pushed back from the poker table during the TV bidding process. "Too rich for our blood," he explained at the time.

Too rich for everyone, as it turns out. Now Carey, who did executive stints with the Dodgers and DirecTV, looks like the smartest tycoon in the room (though we still won't forgive him for the Mike Piazza trade).

Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Los Angeles), who initiated the letter to the FCC, told The Times this Dodgers TV "blueout" is what happens when providers' thirst for sports programming is "out of balance" with viewer demands.

Rep. Janice Hahn (D-San Pedro), who scribbled her signature on both congressional measures this week, says a la carte pricing is something her constituents feel strongly about.

"A lot of people already feel their cable bills are too high," says Hahn, whose father helped lure the Dodgers to Los Angeles in the late 1950s.

She said asking the FCC to step in to mediate the dispute — technically, an act of Congress — at least seemed like a start.

"In a do-nothing Congress, it felt good to finally do something," she said.

"I know that people are angry and outraged," she said. "I know that when my dad thought about bringing the Dodgers here to L.A., it was for the fans."

These days, when it comes to sports deals, the fans never finish first anymore. They come after corporate bottom lines and player unions, vendor profits, regional networks and even parking revenue.

Ever wonder why the light rail line brushes within eyesight of Dodger Stadium but doesn't make a convenient stop?

Case closed.

::

The bad news: After epic flooding, water-main repairs will close Sunset Boulevard near UCLA for an "extended period."

The good news: Bruins rowing teams are now favored to win a Pac-12 title.

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Speaking of titles, odds to win the Pac-12 football championship, according to Bovada, the online sports book: Oregon 11-10, UCLA 11-4, USC 5-1.

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It is awful enough the two goons in the Bryan Stow case received less than five years in prison for destroying his life, but add to the injustice the civil jury's awarding the poor victim less than what Dodgers lawyers were willing to settle for.

Just $15 million? Should have given the guy twice that, right out of Frank McCourt's pocket.

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Is the upcoming Dodgers-Angels Freeway Series a preview of October? If not a World Series prequel, it's at least further proof Los Angeles is America's sports capital. The Southland features two top World Series contenders, starring the two most-exciting young players in the game; two top-20 college football programs; two dysfunctional but ceaselessly entertaining NBA franchises; two of the best NHL franchises, including the champion Kings, the most-likable team in local sports.

Pro football? Don't forget the KISS?

OK, forget the KISS.

chris.erskine@latimes.com

Twitter.com/erskinetimes

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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