Can a few games on free television get Dodgers fans to cancel their DirecTV and sign up for SportsNet LA?
The Dodgers announced Wednesday that, as expected, the team would air 10 games this season on KTLA-TV (Channel 5) as simulcasts of the SportsNet LA broadcast.
With the Dodgers’ television blackout entering its fourth season, the 10-game package extends an olive branch to the majority of local fans that do not get SportsNet LA.
The first of the KTLA games is April 5, the last May 7. The deal includes the May 3 game when retired Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully will be inducted into the Dodgers’ Ring of Honor.
There are no current plans to add broadcasts on KTLA later in the season.
The Dodgers and Charter Communications, the cable company that markets SportsNet LA to other distributors, hope the free sample of early-season games might entice DirecTV subscribers to switch to Charter’s Spectrum service.
There are no active negotiations between Charter and DirecTV, and DirecTV has not seen a strong enough demand among subscribers to persuade it to add SportsNet LA.
If the stalemate continues, the Dodgers and Charter could decide to extend this season’s model into future years: a few games on KTLA or another over-the-air station, with the vast majority of games exclusive to Spectrum.
The Dodgers own SportsNet LA. In exchange for a guaranteed $8.35 billion over 25 years, they granted Time Warner Cable exclusive marketing rights for the channel.
Neither TWC nor Charter Communications, which bought TWC last year, has been able to reach agreement with DirecTV or other local cable and satellite providers to air SportsNet LA.
As a result, Charter is the only major pay-TV distributor in Southern California to carry SportsNet LA.
In November, the Department of Justice sued AT&T, alleging its DirecTV subsidiary had violated antitrust laws by sharing information about SportsNet LA negotiations with other carriers.
With DirecTV as the “ringleader,” the government charged, cable and satellite companies could demand better deals from TWC without worrying that competitors would carry the channel.
“The ultimate result: many consumers in L.A. had fewer — or no — means by which to watch the Dodgers channel,” the lawsuit read.
AT&T has denied the charges and has asked a federal court to throw out the suit. In so doing, AT&T said the government had not alleged an agreement among competitors to freeze out SportsNet LA and had not proved that the channel would be on the air if not for the purported sharing of information.
TWC made an “extravagant bet” in paying the Dodgers so much money, AT&T said, and the asking price for distributors to pay to carry SportsNet LA — a reported $5 per subscriber per month — was simply too high for a channel that many viewers would not watch.
Here are the Dodgers games KTLA will carry:
Wednesday, April 5, home vs. San Diego Padres; Sunday, April 9, at Colorado Rockies; Wednesday, April 12, at Chicago Cubs; Sunday, April 16, home vs. Arizona Diamondbacks; Tuesday-Wednesday, April 18-19, home vs. Colorado Rockies; Sunday, April 23, at Arizona Diamondbacks; Sunday, April 30, home vs. Philadelphia Phillies; Wednesday, May 3, home vs. San Francisco Giants; Sunday, May 7, at San Diego Padres.
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