Los Angeles Business Journal

Carriers Say Price of Dodger Channel Will Drive Away Customers

By Jonathan Polakoff Friday, April 11, 2014

After doing the math, pay-TV providers appear to be sticking to their story that carrying the all-Los Angeles Dodgers channel SportsNet LA on Time Warner Cable’s terms doesn’t pencil out.

Pay-TV providers told the Business Journal that not enough people watch Dodgers games to justify the high price tag, and they don’t want to anger the bulk of their subscribers by raising their bills.

“The vast majority of our U-Verse subscribers only watch a few games a season,” said Chris Lauricella, vice president of content at AT&T in Century City. “It’s a lose-lose if we take the rates Time Warner Cable is asking now. We have to pass those costs on to subscribers or reduce our margins.”

About 70 percent of TV households in Los Angeles still can’t see the games. Time Warner Cable, which operates the channel, has been trying to sell it to pay-TV companies so the channel will be available on basic cable and satellite packages in Los Angeles. The cost would be between $4 and $5 per subscriber a month, with that price going up over time.

Nearly a dozen games into the baseball season, no major pay-TV company has signed up, at least not by the Business Journal’s press time, indicating that it might not have been a mere negotiating tactic when they declined to pick up the channel when it launched in February.

The carriers want the channel; they know some of their L.A. subscribers want Dodgers games. But they’re hoping to bring Time Warner Cable down on price. Meanwhile, they’re trying to negotiate alternatives, including putting the channel in a premium-priced package instead of the main tier, as it is on Time Warner Cable.

The only cable provider to pick up SportsNet LA is Bright House Networks, which has ties to Time Warner Cable and a Southern California audience that’s concentrated in the Bakersfield area; the provider serves fewer than 6,000 households in Los Angeles, according to research firm SNL Kagan.

Read the full story in the April 14 weekly edition of the Business Journal.