As the Dodgers’ television blackout extends through a fifth consecutive season, Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday that the league has explored ways to make broadcasts available to all fans via the internet.
The league looked into the possibility of streaming SportsNet LA broadcasts throughout the Los Angeles market, perhaps on its mlb.tv service. However, the Dodgers’ record $8.35-billion television deal guarantees exclusive local broadcast rights to Charter Communications, not only for television but for streaming.
“They own those rights,” Manfred said. “You can’t just go in and ignore those local rights that belong to someone else. You’d have to figure out a way around it.”
So far, Manfred said, the league has been unable to resolve that issue with Charter, which carries the Dodgers-owned SportsNet LA channel on its Spectrum service. Charter is one of a handful of regional sports networks that does not offer streaming of games, even to its cable subscribers.
The Dodgers remain off the air in a majority of homes in the Los Angeles market, as Charter has not gotten DirecTV and other major local cable and satellite providers to add SportsNet LA.
For now, fans either unable or unwilling to subscribe to Charter are limited to seeing the Dodgers on a handful of national broadcasts on ESPN and Fox, and on a selected number of games simulcast on KTLA: 16 games last season, 10 this season.
Manfred has long said the Dodgers’ television blackout is bad for the team and for the league but said his influence is limited because the league does not have “a seat at the table” at what is fundamentally a dispute between Charter and DirecTV.
“We have explored two possible paths of influence,” Manfred said.
The first, he said, was to try to facilitate a deal between Charter and DirecTV.
DirecTV has resisted overtures from the league, the Dodgers and local politicians to agree to mediation or arbitration. DirecTV has not lost the critical mass of subscribers that would compel it to make a deal to carry SportsNet LA.
The streaming option was first explored last winter, Manfred said, and would be discussed again in the coming winter.
“We explored some alternatives with the interested parties that might have used some Major League Baseball assets to get greater distribution,” Manfred said. “Unfortunately, a lot of those creative ideas we have affect the balance of power or the economic situation of the distributor or the RSN.
“It’s difficult to convince people to go along with any of these creative ideas. But we will be back at it again during this off-season.”