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Column: Dodgers games on YouTube give fans what DirecTV and Spectrum won’t

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Broadcasters (from left) Jason Marquis, Rick Waltz and Nomar Garciaparra talk before Wednesday’s game between the Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals on YouTube.
(YouTube)

YouTube is doing fans a great favor by streaming three live, free Dodgers games this season.

It goes beyond adding another platform — in addition to Fox, ESPN, TBS and MLB Network — to access a national broadcast of one of the team’s regular-season games that falls outside the muck of shame created by Charter Communications’ stalled distribution of its SportsNet L.A. channel over the last six seasons.

The ease and simplicity of viewer access to streaming games exposes another mind-numbing flaw with the 25-year, $8.35-billion local TV rights agreement between Charter and the Dodgers. Charter (the mass media company behind the Spectrum brand) doesn’t offer streaming of games, sticking to a narrative that doing so on the Spectrum app would undermine an exclusivity agreement afforded those who signed up for the TV service.

YouTube partnered with Major League Baseball to do a test run of 13 exclusive games during the second half of this season. The Dodgers have been on twice — including a walk-off win at Dodger Stadium last Wednesday afternoon against St. Louis that according to YouTube has more than 1.6 million views.

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A July 18 game against Philadelphia exceeded more than 2.1 million views, according to YouTube. One more Dodgers game will be streamed, at home against Tampa Bay on Sept. 17.

MLB arranged the deal, and games are produced by the MLB Network crew. Neither Charter nor the Dodgers are responsible for giving away those games, as they do with KTLA-Channel 5 simulcasts — 10 of which broadcast from April 2 through June 15, and another five added from Aug. 31 through Sept. 28.

The Angels had one YouTube game and have one more against Cleveland in early September. Unlike Charter and the Dodgers, the Fox Sports West deal with the Angels has included access to streaming games on the Fox Sports Go app the last four seasons. A sign-in is required to authenticate the user’s cable or dish subscription.

Alanna Rizzo reports from the Dodgers dugout during Wednesday’s YouTube broadcast.
Alanna Rizzo reports from the Dodgers dugout during Wednesday's YouTube broadcast.
(YouTube)

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The Dodgers’ Spectrum/Charter delivery never has had a video stream option, even for SNLA subscribers. What if the team could use this YouTube template, offer games a la carte, maybe at just $3 a game for their SNLA feeds? It sounds so simple.

Charter spokesperson Maureen Huff said her company has “no updates to report on this front.” The Dodgers declined comment.

Surfing the YouTube way

Facebook Watch, which buffered its way through 25 exclusive MLB games last season, accepted a schedule of just six games this season, and none of them exclusive. The once-a-month feed for 2019 will include the New York Yankees visiting Dodger Stadium on Friday, Aug. 23.

Facebook’s service requires a sign-up. Users may have trepidation about how their personal data might be compromised based on security breaches reported over the last year.

YouTube sees advantages over Facebook for the MLB service, if only because of the primary differences in their platforms. YouTube has no sign-up requirement, the screen is clear of clutter even though both allow comments, and it has a better track record with the younger demographics.

The aim is also to educate older users, MLB’s core audience, to get past any discomfort accessing modern digital technology.

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“Any time there is change, we will see messages like, ‘Why can’t I watch this game in the normal way?’ ” said Tim Katz, YouTube’s head of sports and news partnerships. “Many may not realize the YouTube app is already embedded in most TVs.

On the 25th anniversary of the most notorious work stoppage in sports, The Times takes a look a the impact the 1994 Major League Baseball strike had on the game, its players and its fans.

“L.A. is also a great example of where not everyone can find the Dodger games, depending on access to the local RSN. But when we make them available on YouTube, anyone with an internet connection can access these games free.”

The Dodgers game on YouTube last week had more than 320,000 viewers in the bottom of the ninth inning. A typical Dodgers SNLA telecast might attract 100,000 homes, or 130,000 viewers, for a Wednesday afternoon.

At the end of this season, Katz said he doesn’t doubt the data will show new MLB viewership, a higher number of younger viewers, and an acceptance of telecasts that don’t show commercials between innings but incorporate advertisers into graphics and other creative elements.

“We take advantage of what works for us digitally,” Katz said. “So far it has gone very well. You can expect we’ll likely want to continue this in the future with MLB as well as potentially other leagues.”

Spinning forward

  • Just a nice coincidence the Angels have a tie-dye T-shirt giveaway Friday against the Chicago White Sox on the same night NBC Sports Chicago will bring Bill Walton into its booth to reunite with play-by-play man Jason Benetti. The two have worked together on ESPN college basketball and form a well-oiled comedy team second to what Walton pulls off more regularly with Dave Pasch on ESPN hoops calls. As he fills in for regular White Sox analyst Steve Stone, Walton is “not just there to be zany,” Benetti told the Chicago Tribune. “He’s there to get it right and he cares about the people he’s watching. ... He’s already sending emails about prep.”
  • After viewing “Brian Banks,” a 2018 Los Angeles Film Festival Audience Award winner for Fiction Feature Film that landed nationwide in theaters this weekend, one might also pick up “What Set Me Free,” the book version by the former Long Beach Poly High football player and USC recruit who used the California Innocence Project to overturn a rape conviction after he already served prison time and was on parole. Noteworthy differences in the Hollywood presentation, in which Banks is played terrifically by Aldis Hodge, compared to what Banks wrote for “the story that inspired the movie” with co-author Mark Dagostino: two different pseudonyms for the accuser, an added girlfriend/trainer character, and discrepancies in framing his very brief NFL exhibition-season career.
  • Podcast tips: Ted Sobel’s “Touching Greatness” for Bleav.com landed an hour-plus conversation between retired Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully and former Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Carl Erskine talking about their “Boys of Summer” connection. … Frank Caliendo’s show at FrankPodCaliendoCast.com will do a weekly recap of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” with the comedian immersed in his spot-on imitation of Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden.
  • Jessica Mendoza, analyst on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball, was in an auto accident and missed Sunday’s game between the Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants. Play-by-play announcer Matt Vasgersian explained at the top of the broadcast that Mendoza “was involved in a minor auto accident over the weekend. She’s feeling a lot better, and we’ll see her again next weekend.”

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