Collapse of Comcast-TWC merger could extend Dodgers’ TV blackout
Dodgers fans should brace for a second full season without the home team on television throughout Southern California.
That was the word Thursday from sports business analysts, as the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable teetered near collapse.
“That creates uncertainty for a while,” said Ed Desser, president of Desser Sports Media. “Uncertainty is not helpful in terms of resolving this.”
The Dodgers did not immediately return messages seeking comment Thursday. Their games currently are televised on SportsNet LA, a team-owned channel distributed by TWC and unavailable in most homes in the Los Angeles market.
However, a person familiar with the Dodgers’ thinking said the team remains adamant that TWC needs to solve the dilemma, whether by adjusting the asking price for SportsNet LA or finding another solution.
“They thought they were going to be bailed out by the Comcast deal,” the person said. “It’s squarely in their lap.”
For more than a year, Dodgers executives have said the team’s television blackout would be resolved soon after government regulators approved the Comcast-TWC merger. The Dodgers also said a separate merger between AT&T and DirecTV -- still pending -- probably would need approval before the blackout could end.
TWC could find another company with which to merge, and that probably would mean another lengthy government review.
For now, without the possibility that Comcast could write down the costly TWC deal with the Dodgers, TWC has to decide whether to cut its losses -- more than $100 million per year -- by lowering the price for DirecTV and other television outlets to carry SportsNet LA.
“Unless Time Warner does what it should have done when it found out it was overpriced -- bite the bullet and write off a big chunk of what it paid the Dodgers -- it is unlikely Dodgers fans will have carriage this year,” said Marc Ganis, president of the consulting firm Sportscorp Ltd.
The Dodgers, the owners of SportsNet LA, sold exclusive marketing rights to TWC in a 25-year, $8.35-billion deal. TWC asked other cable and satellite companies to pay close to $5 per month per subscriber for SportsNet LA, but DirecTV and every other carrier balked at the price.
As the Dodgers’ season started this month, TWC said it had been unable to engage carriers in meaningful negotiations. As a result, for a second consecutive season, Dodgers games are unavailable to about 70% of local viewers.
Ganis said TWC should do what the Dodgers do when they want to dump an aging and overpaid player -- swallow part of the contract and move on.
“Time Warner simply did a stupid deal,” Ganis said. “At some point, they’re going to have to bite the bullet, and it might as well be sooner rather than later so Dodger fans can watch the games.”
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