How bad did Time Warner Cable want to get the TV rights to the Los Angeles Dodgers away from Fox Sports’ Prime Ticket channel?
So bad that the cable operator promised the team that it would cover fees from other distributors who don’t sign on to carry the channel, people familiar with the deal said. The agreement is expected to be announced this week, perhaps later Thursday.
In other words, if DirecTV, for example, does not sign on to carry the new Dodgers channel, Time Warner Cable will pay the subscription fees until a deal could be reached with the satellite broadcaster. The price for the Dodgers channel is expected to be in the neighborhood of $5 a subscriber per month.
That’s a pretty steep ask for a team whose games last season were watched on average by 106,000 households. The Lakers typically more than double that figure and the channel its games are carried on, Time Warner Cable’s SportsNet, costs between $3.50 and $3.95 a subscriber per month.
Under the terms of the deal being finalized, the Dodgers will own the channel outright. Time Warner Cable will shell out between $7 billion and $8 billion for a 20-to-25-year partnership in which it will manage much of the operations and handle distribution. The channel would likely launch either late this year or early next year after the Dodgers’ deal with Prime Ticket ends.
With the Dodgers having their own channel, it will bring the number of regional sports networks in Los Angeles to six. Besides the Dodgers channel, there is Fox Sports West (Angels and Kings), Prime Ticket (Clippers), SportsNet and the Spanish-language sister service Deportes, and the Pac-12 channel.
“That’s too many channels,” Marc Ganis, a sports industry consultant in Chicago told the Los Angeles Times earlier this week. “I can’t imagine that is sustainable on a long-term basis.”
Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.