Dodger brass not worried about distribution for new cable channel
Los Angeles Dodgers President Stan Kasten isn’t worried about the distribution prospects for the team’s new cable network.
“These things always get worked out,” Kasten told the Los Angeles Times when asked about potential resistance Time Warner Cable -- the team’s business partner on the channel -- might face in selling it to other distributors such as DirecTV and Cox Communications.
Time Warner Cable, which is handling distribution for the Dodgers and shelled out more than $8 billion for a 25-year deal, is expected to start pitching it to other area distributors in the coming weeks. The network, called Time Warner Cable SportsNet LA, is set to launch Feb. 25.
The cost to carry the channel is expected to be $4 to $5 per subscriber per month in the first season with the price going up over the course of the contract.
Time Warner Cable will probably face pushback from DirecTV and Cox, particularly because both are already paying a similar amount to carry the cable operator’s SportsNet channel, which is home to the Los Angeles Lakers.
“Time Warner Cable has told us they expect to have full distribution,” Kasten said.
Even if Time Warner Cable doesn’t sign up all the distributors, the Dodgers will still get paid. According to a clause in the Time Warner Cable deal, the operator is on the hook to cover the fees from other distributors who don’t sign on to carry the channel. In other words, if Dish Network does not sign on to carry the channel, Time Warner Cable will pay the subscription fees until a deal is reached with the satellite broadcaster.
As for why the Dodgers were adamant about having their own network instead of being part of Time Warner Cable’s existing sports channels here, Kasten said, “We thought it was the best way to serve the fans.”
Some rival distributors are grumbling that the additional channel is not necessary. Besides the two Time Warner Cable sports networks (one is a Spanish-language service), Fox also owns two channels of its own -- Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket. There are also two Pac-12 channels serving the region.
As for the clunky name, blame Time Warner Cable for that. Although the Dodgers own the channel, the name was a Time Warner Cable decision, according to Todd Boehly, a partner in Guggenheim Baseball Management, the entity that owns the Dodgers.
“That was the name they wanted,” he said, adding that the Dodger logo of an interlaced L and A will be used in the graphics.
Using Dodgers in the channel name, Boehly said that could create a “whole host of complexities with Major League Baseball.”
With regards to the recent offer by Charter Communications to buy Time Warner Cable, Dodger brass doesn’t think a change of ownership would have any effect on its television plans.
“There is no reason to think a new owner wouldn’t honor the contract,” said Mark Walter, chief executive of Guggenheim Capital and controlling owner of the Dodgers.
Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.
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