Time Warner Cable SportsNet LA

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Time Warner Cable SportsNet LA
236px
Launched February 25, 2014
Owned by Guggenheim Baseball Management
Charter Communications
Picture format 1080i (HDTV)
480i (SDTV)
Country United States
Language English
Spanish
Korean (via SAP)
Broadcast area Greater Los Angeles Area
Coachella Valley
Las Vegas Valley
Hawaii
Headquarters El Segundo, California
Sister channel(s) Time Warner Cable SportsNet and Time Warner Cable Deportes
Website http://www.sportsnetla.com/
Availability
Cable
Time Warner Cable Channel 319 (HD)
Charter Communications Channel 44 (SD)
Channel 789 (HD)
Brighthouse Networks (Bakersfield) Channel 21 (SD)
Channel 1021 (HD)
Champion Broadband (San Gabriel Valley) Channel 33 (SD)
Channel 1033 (HD)

Time Warner Cable SportsNet LA (otherwise known as simply SportsNet LA) is a regional sports network jointly owned by the Los Angeles Dodgers Major League Baseball team and Charter Communications through its acquisition of Time Warner Cable in May 2016. The channel's programming is devoted completely to the Dodgers, and includes coverage of all Dodgers games not being exclusively televised by MLB's national television partners, along with news, interview, and documentary programming focusing on the team.

The channel, which launched on February 25, 2014, was the result of a 25-year deal with Time Warner Cable reached in January 2013, valued at $8.35 billion, succeeding Fox Sports West as regional rights holder for the team. The channel is one of three TWC regional sports networks serving the Los Angeles region.

SportsNet LA is only carried on Charter Communications and a few smaller distributors, reaching less than half the Southern California market. Other distributors, including DirecTV, have yet to make carriage deals. Sticking points in negotiations have included the high cost of the channel and Time Warner Cable's requirement that SportsNet LA be carried with other mainstream premium channels rather than in a separate sports tier or on an "a la carte" basis.

History

In late-2012, Fox Sports' exclusive period for negotiating a new broadcast deal with the Dodgers ended. Reports published at that time indicated that the team was negotiating with other potential broadcasters, such as the recently established Time Warner Cable SportsNet, and contemplating forming an in-house network with Dick Clark Productions, a television production company recently purchased by the Dodgers' new parent company, Guggenheim Partners.[1]

On January 22, 2013, the Los Angeles Times reported that Time Warner Cable had signed a deal to partner with the Dodgers to form a new regional sports network, which would be majority-owned by the team.[2]

On January 28, the Dodgers and Time Warner Cable signed a 25-year broadcast agreement valued at $8.35 billion,[3] subject to the approval of Major League Baseball, which would see the establishment of a new channel known as SportsNet LA.[4] The deal ended long-standing broadcast partnerships with Fox Sports West, which had aired Dodgers games on its Prime Ticket channel since 1997; and with KCAL-TV, an independent station which had been the Dodgers' over-the-air broadcast television outlet since 2006. TWC's winning bid exceeded Fox's bid by $2 billion and was worth $210 million for the inaugural 2014 season or $1.5 million a game. That amount exceeded the revenues from Prime Ticket and KCAL-TV by more than four times. The agreement increased the number of games aired: nearly 100 games carried in 2014 compared with the 49 games aired by Prime Ticket in 2013.[3]

Following the approval of the Dodgers television deal, the team announced on January 16, 2014 that SportsNet LA would launch on February 25, the eve of spring training and that all of the Dodgers' spring training games will be televised by the new channel. At least 75 games broadcast by the channel in the 2014 season will be simulcast in Spanish; the channel does plan to eventually televise all its games in Spanish in the future. While the channel is not directly branded with the Dodgers' name, its logo incorporates the team's interlocking "LA" insignia; team co-owner Todd Boehly stated that the decision was "something [Time Warner Cable] thought was really valuable to their brand. We have the flexibility to sit down and evolve the name over time."[5]

Programming

Team president Stan Kasten described Sportsnet LA as a "Dodger-only channel with Dodger-only content 24/7", featuring live game coverage and original series focusing on aspects of the team.[5] The initial program lineup included:

  • Access SportsNet: Dodgers — the channel's flagship news and information program, airing nightly and as a pre- and post-game show.[6]
  • Leadoff LA — analysis of the team by Sportsnet LA personalities and experts, batting practice coverage, and viewer interaction through social media.
  • Dodgers Clubhouse — airs weekly during the season with in-depth features on the team and its players, and interviews with the team's manager.[7]
  • Backstage: Dodgers — airs weekly during the season, featuring a behind-the-scenes perspective on the Dodgers' games, players, and staff.[8]
  • Talkin' Blue — panel discussions featuring Dodgers' players and staff.
  • Connected With... — profiles and interviews of Dodgers players and staff, and documentaries.
  • Timeless Dodgers — classic Dodgers games.[7]
  • Larry King at Bat — an interview program hosted by long-time television personality and avid Dodgers fan Larry King[9]
  • Dodgers Squeeze Play — condensed one-hour encores of Dodgers games.[10]

As part of cutbacks across TWC's Los Angeles regional sports networks due to low viewership, Larry King at Bat and Dodgers Clubhouse were cancelled in September 2015.[11][12] The following February, the channel announced it would reduce the number of spring training games it broadcasts to 16, down from 31 in 2015 and 22 in its debut year.[13]

Talent

Long-time Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully retained his role through the transition to SportsNet LA
  • Vin Scully (solo broadcaster of all Dodger home games and select road games in California and Arizona)
  • Charlie Steiner (play-by-play broadcaster of all other Dodger games)
  • Orel Hershiser (color commentary with Steiner and Garciaparra)
  • Nomar Garciaparra (color commentary with Steiner and Hershiser)
  • Alanna Rizzo (field reporter on gameday, also hosts studio shows)
  • Jerry Hairston, Jr. (studio commentary)
  • Ned Colletti (studio commentary)
  • John Hartung (studio host of Access Sportsnet: Dodgers)
  • Kelli Tennant (field reporter, studio host)

In August 2013, the Dodgers confirmed that long-time, Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully would retain his traditional role as commentator for Dodgers games in California on SportsNet LA. The 2014 MLB season marked his 65th as a baseball commentator.[14] Scully plans to retire at the conclusion of the 2016 Los Angeles Dodgers season.[15]

Games not called by Scully are called by Charlie Steiner (play-by-play) and Orel Hershiser (color commentary) with Alanna Rizzo as a field reporter. Rizzo, formerly of MLB Network, also hosts the pre- and post-game show from Dodger Stadium. Former baseball players Nomar Garciaparra and Jerry Hairston, Jr. (as well as Hershiser on days he isn't announcing) are also part of the pre- and post-game broadcasts. Former KABC-TV anchor John Hartung serves as a studio host.[16]

Carriage dispute

In its inaugural 2014 season, SportsNet LA was carried by Time Warner Cable systems in Los Angeles, Bright House Networks' system in Bakersfield, and Champion Broadband serving a small portion of the San Gabriel Valley. Together, these distributors covered only 30% of the market, leaving the remaining 70% without the channel. Coverage rose when Charter Communications added SportsNet LA in June 2015, but remains under 50 percent: about 1.8 million homes. DirecTV is the largest unsigned distributor.[13][17][18]

The carriage dispute has become emblematic of the growing tension between high-fee sports channels and content distributors. The latter have grown concerned over losing subscribers who resent paying for sports channels they don't watch. Convergence Consulting Group predicted that by the end of 2016, some 27 million U.S. subscribers will have cut the cord on pay television services.[19] In 2014, TWC reportedly asked other distributors for an estimated $4.90 monthly fee per household, with carriage fees increasing over the length of the contract.[20][21] In March 2016, the company attempted to break the stalemate by reducing the fee for the upcoming season by about 30 percent: about $3.50 per household, according to an estimate by the analyst firm SNL Kagan. A followup offer extended the period to six years, with fees comparable to DirecTV's own Seattle-based regional sports channel, Root Sports Northwest, estimated at $3.84 per household. Both pre-season offers were rejected before opening day.[18][22][23]

DirecTV has offered to carry the channel on an "a la carte" basis, rather than part of a package, at whatever monthly fee TWC sets. That scheme would avoid passing the cost to DirectTV's entire base of subscribers, including those not interested in the channel. TWC responded by noting that bundled regional sports channels have been an industry standard, one that DirecTV itself adheres to in other markets.[24][25][26][27]

Another factor, one specific to Los Angeles, is the large number of regional sports channels in the area, which has resulted in higher subscriber costs than in other metropolitan regions. Those channels include Time Warner Cable SportsNet, whose ratings dropped along with the flagging performance of its most visible team, the Los Angeles Lakers.[28] In addition, some industry observers believed that Comcast, which was trying to acquire Time Warner Cable, would write off loses on the Dodgers' contract and offer distributors a better deal. That speculation lowered the signing incentive in 2014.[3] Comcast withdrew the acquisition proposal on April 24, 2015.[29] In turn, Charter Communications announced its intent to acquire Time Warner Cable on May 26, 2015 and added SportsNet LA on June 9. The addition made the network available to nearly 300,000 additional subscribers in the Los Angeles region.[30][31][17][32] Charter acquired Time Warner Cable on May 18, 2016 and will drop the TWC branding in favor of its own service brand: "Spectrum".[33]

Consequences

At the end of the 2014 season, the Dodgers' television ratings (0.80) were the lowest in franchise history, averaging 42,000 households per game, less than half that of the team's nearest competitor, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. During the period, the Angels' ratings rose 49 percent, the largest gain in baseball.[34] In a move to increase viewership, TWC made the Dodgers' final six regular season games available on KDOC-TV, an over-the-air independent channel carried by all cable and satellite companies in the Los Angeles region.[35] Some observers saw TWC's inability to resell the channel as having industry-wide consequences. Los Angeles Times business reporter Joe Flint called the standoff a potentially "definitive moment for the world of sports programming, as the industry realizes that exorbitantly priced television deals can backfire."[3] Some business consultants to sports franchises reported a drop of interest in forming regional sports networks dedicated to a single team.[34]

In its first two baseball seasons, Time Warner Cable lost more than $100 million a year on SportsNet LA due to the channel's limited distribution. TWC Sports President David B. Rone, who was instrumental in the company's foray into regional sports programming, departed TWC in October 2015.[28]

References

  1. Ozanian, Mark. "Dodgers Exploring TV Deal With Dick Clark Productions". Forbes. Retrieved 17 December 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Shaikin, Bill (2013-01-22). "Dodgers, Time Warner Cable have a deal". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Publishing. Retrieved 2013-01-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Flint, Joe (July 17, 2014). "Standoff over Dodgers games could be defining moment in sports TV". Los Angeles Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Axisa, Mike (2013-01-28). "Dodgers announce deal with Time Warner, launch of SportsNet LA". CBSSports.com. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2013-01-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 Shaikin, Bill (January 16, 2014). "All Dodgers, all the time? MLB approves new TV deal". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Company. Retrieved January 17, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "SportsNet LA to televise Dodger Spring Training game every day". Los Angeles Dodgers. MLB Advanced Media. Retrieved 22 March 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 "SportsNet LA unveils full programming roster". Dodgers Insider. MLB Advanced Media. Retrieved 22 March 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Watch a clip of the Dodgers' new all-access TV show". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 22 March 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  10. http://www.sportsnetla.com/tv-schedule
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  12. Hoffarth, Tom (September 17, 2015). "TWC Sports layoffs to affect Lakers, Dodgers, Galaxy programing". Los Angeles Daily News.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. 13.0 13.1 Shaikin, Bill (February 19, 2016). "SportsNet LA cuts back on Dodgers spring broadcasts". latimes.com. Retrieved 2016-02-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  17. 17.0 17.1 James, Meg. "Charter to carry Dodgers channel, SportsNet LA, beginning Tuesday". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 5 June 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. 18.0 18.1 James, Meg (March 22, 2016). "Time Warner Cable lowers price of Dodgers channel, hoping to end stalemate". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2016-03-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Lazarus, David (April 8, 2016). "Why cutting the pay-TV cord turned out to be a good move". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2016-04-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Flint, Joe (February 24, 2014). "Dodger channel debuts Tuesday but much of region will be shut out". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 26, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. "Time Warner Cable says talks with DirecTV for Dodgers channel are over". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 4 April 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. James, Meg (March 29, 2016). "Time Warner Cable sweetens deal again for Dodgers TV channel -- and still no takers". latimes.com. Retrieved 2016-03-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. James, Meg (March 31, 2016). "Time Warner Cable throws in the towel on Dodger channel negotiations". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2016-04-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. "Verizon Fios Offers Frustrated Dodger Fans Complimentary HBO or Showtime". Retrieved 3 June 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  29. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
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  32. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
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