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Spectrum SportsNet LA

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Spectrum SportsNet LA and Spectrum Deportes LA (otherwise known as simply SportsNet LA and Deportes LA and originally known as Time Warner Cable SportsNet LA) is an American regional sports network jointly owned by the Los Angeles Dodgers Major League Baseball team and Charter 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.

Spectrum SportsNet LA
Spectrum Deportes LA
Logo for Spectrum SportsNet LA.jpg
Launched February 25, 2014; 3 years ago (2014-02-25)
Owned by Guggenheim Partners (50%)
Charter Communications (50%)
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
Formerly called Time Warner Cable SportsNet LA (2014-2016)
Sister channel(s) Spectrum SportsNet and Spectrum Deportes
Website www.sportsnetla.com
Availability
Cable
Spectrum Channel 44 (SD)
Channel 789 (HD)

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 the regional rights holder for the team. The channel is one of three regional sports networks owned by Charter Communications serving the Los Angeles region.

SportsNet LA is carried by Charter reaching less than half the Southern California market. Other distributors, including DirecTV, have not made carriage deals. Disputes in negotiations have included the cost of the channel and the 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.

Contents

HistoryEdit

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 were 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 would be televised by the new channel. At least 75 games broadcast by the channel in the 2014 season were simulcast in Spanish; the channel plans to 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]

ProgrammingEdit

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]

TalentEdit

 
Long-time sportscaster Vin Scully continued his tenure as voice of the Dodgers on SportsNet LA until his 2016 retirement.

As of the 2017 season, Dodgers games on SportsNet LA are called by Joe Davis on play-by-play, and Orel Hershiser on color.[14] Alanna Rizzo, formerly of MLB Network, is a field reporter and 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.[15]

From SportsNet LA's inaugural season through 2016, Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully retained his traditional role as solo commentator for Dodgers games in California. The 2014 MLB season marked his 65th as a baseball commentator.[16] Games not called by Scully were called by Charley Steiner (play-by-play) and Orel Hershiser (color commentary).[15] Scully retired at the conclusion of the 2016 Los Angeles Dodgers season.[17] The following season, he was succeeded by Joe Davis; he was phased into the role by performing play-by-play for 52 road games during the 2016 season, splitting with Steiner the games not being called by Scully that season. Steiner continues to serve as an alternate play-by-play announcer if Davis is unable to work a game due to a Fox Sports assignment.[18][19][20][14]

For the 2014 season, SportsNet LA began to carry an expanded schedule of dedicated Spanish-language broadcasts of Dodgers games on a special feed of the network. For the 2014 season, 75 games were broadcast in Spanish, and called by Jorge Jarrín (son of the team's long-time Spanish radio voice Jaime Jarrin) and Manny Mota.[21] As of the 2015 season, all Dodgers games broadcast by SportsNet LA are available in Spanish; at this time, Jorge moved to the Spanish-language radio broadcasts with his father, while Pepe Yniguez and Fernando Valenzuela moved from radio to television alongside Mota.[22]

Also in 2014, SportsNet LA launched Korean-language broadcasts carried on SAP, called by Richard Choi and Chong Ho Yim. The Dodgers were the first MLB team to offer a Korean-language broadcast for all of its games.[23]

CarriageEdit

SportsNet LA has never been available to the majority of households in its service area.[24] Carriage was most limited in the channel's inaugural 2014 season, when it 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][25][26] Since Charter's acquisition of TWC on September 20, 2016, SportsNet LA is only carried by Charter and its subsidiary, Bright House Networks.[27]

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.[28]

Early on, DirecTV offered to carry the channel on an "a la carte" basis, rather than part of a package, at whatever monthly fee TWC set. 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.[29][30][31][32]

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 Spectrum SportsNet (formerly Time Warner Cable SportsNet), whose ratings dropped along with the flagging performance of its most visible team, the Los Angeles Lakers.[33] 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.[34] In turn, Charter Communications announced its intent to acquire Time Warner Cable on May 26, 2015. As a result, Charter added SportsNet LA on June 9, making the network available to nearly 300,000 additional subscribers in the Los Angeles region.[35][36][25][37]

Proposed distribution feesEdit

In 2014, Time Warner Cable reportedly asked other distributors for an estimated $4.90 monthly fee per household, with carriage fees increasing over the length of the contract.[38][39] In March 2016, TWC 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 follow-up 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.[26][40][41]

In September 2016, after acquiring TWC, Charter indicated it would price the 2017 season above $4.50. “[The previous] deal is no longer on the table—it didn’t work,” said Charter Chief Executive Thomas Rutledge to the Los Angeles Times. “We would love to sell the channel to others, but no one has bought it—and we are not giving it away. So if consumers want the Dodger channel, they’ll need to subscribe to us to get it.”[42]

ConsequencesEdit

At the end of the inaugural 2014 season, 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.[43]

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.[33]

By June 2017, the SportsNet LA viewership for Dodger games had dropped 49% from 2013, shifting from 154,000 households to 79,000. Television viewership for the Dodgers' regional rivals, the Los Angeles Angels, initially soared to 107,000 households per game in 2014. But that number dropped over the 2015 and 2016 seasons, averaging just 47,000 households in the first few months of the 2017 season, even though the games are broadcast on all major carriers.[44]

In bids to increase viewership, SportsNet LA content has occasionally been broadcast on over-the-air channels carried by all cable and satellite companies in the Los Angeles region. In 2014 and 2016, the Dodgers' final six regular season games were shown on KDOC-TV and KTLA, respectively. The latter included Vin Scully's final games before his retirement.[45][46] In 2017, 10 early-season games aired on KTLA, which, together with SportsNet LA, drew an average 378,000 viewers per game, about five times the size of the usual audience.[44]

DirecTV collusion lawsuitEdit

On November 2, 2016, the United States Department of Justice sued DirecTV and its corporate successor, AT&T Inc., alleging the company colluded with its competitors to prevent SportsNet LA from being carried more widely.[47] The parties settled the following March, resulting in stricter operating guidelines for AT&T, but no break in the negotiating stalemate.[48]

The DOJ alleged that DirecTV had "unlawfully exchanged competitively-sensitive information" with AT&T (prior to its acquisition of DirecTV), Charter, and Cox Communications surrounding their negotiations and plans to carry SportsNet LA, in order to "obtain bargaining leverage and to reduce the risk that they would lose subscribers if they decided not to carry the channel but a competitor chose to do so."[49]

AT&T general counsel David McAtee responded to the claims, stating that the company made its decision "independently, legally and only after thorough negotiations with the content owner”, and argued that no other provider carried the channel because they did not want to pass TWC's "inflated prices" for the channel on to consumers.[50]

The March 2017 settlement required AT&T to better ensure that its employees maintain confidentiality during contract negotiations. But the state of those negotiations remained unchanged as AT&T was not required to make any bargaining concessions.[48]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Ozanian, Mark (December 14, 2012). "Dodgers Exploring TV Deal With Dick Clark Productions". Forbes. Retrieved December 17, 2012. 
  2. ^ Shaikin, Bill (January 22, 2013). "Dodgers, Time Warner Cable have a deal". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Publishing. Retrieved January 29, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d Flint, Joe (July 17, 2014). "Standoff over Dodgers games could be defining moment in sports TV". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 2, 2016. 
  4. ^ Axisa, Mike (January 28, 2013). "Dodgers announce deal with Time Warner, launch of SportsNet LA". CBSSports.com. CBS Interactive. Retrieved January 29, 2013. 
  5. ^ a b Shaikin, Bill (January 16, 2014). "All Dodgers, all the time? MLB approves new TV deal". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Company. Retrieved January 17, 2014. 
  6. ^ "SportsNet LA to televise Dodger Spring Training game every day". Los Angeles Dodgers. MLB Advanced Media. Retrieved 22 March 2014. 
  7. ^ a b "SportsNet LA unveils full programming roster". Dodgers Insider. MLB Advanced Media. Retrieved 22 March 2014. 
  8. ^ "Watch a clip of the Dodgers' new all-access TV show". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 22 March 2014. 
  9. ^ "Larry King to Host Dodgers Show on SportsNet LA". Variety. February 25, 2014. 
  10. ^ http://www.sportsnetla.com/tv-schedule
  11. ^ Shaikin, Bill (September 17, 2015). "Time Warner Cable cuts sports programs, lays off about 30 people". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 3, 2015. 
  12. ^ Hoffarth, Tom (September 17, 2015). "TWC Sports layoffs to affect Lakers, Dodgers, Galaxy programing". Los Angeles Daily News. 
  13. ^ a b Shaikin, Bill (February 19, 2016). "SportsNet LA cuts back on Dodgers spring broadcasts". latimes.com. Retrieved 2016-02-24. 
  14. ^ a b "Dodgers Announcer Joe Davis on Replacing Legend Vin Scully and L.A.'s World Series Prospects". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 9 April 2017. 
  15. ^ a b Weisman, Jon (January 22, 2014). "SportsNet LA officially set for February 25 launch". Dodgers Insider. MLB Advanced Media. 
  16. ^ "It's official: Vin Scully will return in 2014". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  17. ^ "Vin Scully talks schedule for last year behind microphone". ESPN.com. Retrieved 1 February 2016. 
  18. ^ "How Joe Davis deals with the idea of ‘replacing’ Vin Scully for Dodgers". Los Angeles Daily News. Retrieved 9 April 2017. 
  19. ^ "Joe Davis to call Dodgers games through at least 2017". True Blue LA (SBNation). Retrieved 2 March 2017. 
  20. ^ Stephen, Eric (November 11, 2015). "Dodgers hire Joe Davis to call 50 road games on TV in 2016". SB Nation. Retrieved December 3, 2015. 
  21. ^ "Dodgers to televise 75 games in Spanish on SportsNet LA". True Blue LA (SB Nation). Vox Media. Retrieved 9 April 2017. 
  22. ^ "Jaime Jarrin & Jorge Jarrin new Dodgers Spanish radio team". True Blue LA (SB Nation). Vox Media. Retrieved 9 April 2017. 
  23. ^ "Dodgers become first MLB team to air all games in Korean on TV". Southern Carolina Public Radio. Retrieved 2 March 2017. 
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  25. ^ a b James, Meg. "Charter to carry Dodgers channel, SportsNet LA, beginning Tuesday". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 5 June 2015. 
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  27. ^ "FAQs | Los Angeles Dodgers | Time Warner Cable SportsNet LA". www.sportsnetla.com. Retrieved 2016-09-24. 
  28. ^ 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. 
  29. ^ "Verizon Fios Offers Frustrated Dodger Fans Complimentary HBO or Showtime". Retrieved 3 June 2014. 
  30. ^ "Little progress in DirecTV-Time Warner Cable Dodger talks". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 3 June 2014. 
  31. ^ Ben Block, Alex (April 5, 2014). "DirecTV: Time Warner Cable Trying to Force Deal for Dodgers Cable Network". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  32. ^ Flint, Joe (July 27, 2014). "Time Warner Cable says yes to arbitration to end Dodgers TV standoff". Los Angeles Times. 
  33. ^ a b James, Meg (October 26, 2015). "Time Warner Cable Sports chief David Rone is stepping down". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2016-04-01. 
  34. ^ James, Meg; Puzzanghera, Jim. "Comcast, Time Warner Cable scrub $45-billion merger under federal resistance". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2015-04-24. 
  35. ^ James, Meg (May 26, 2015). "Charter Communications to offer Dodgers TV channel". LA Times. Retrieved May 26, 2015. 
  36. ^ Kang, Cecilia (May 26, 2015). "Charter strikes deal with Time Warner Cable to create mega cable and Internet firm". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 26, 2015. 
  37. ^ James, Meg. "Charter's first telecast of Dodgers game scores big TV ratings". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2015-06-11. 
  38. ^ Flint, Joe (February 24, 2014). "Dodger channel debuts Tuesday but much of region will be shut out". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 26, 2014. 
  39. ^ "Time Warner Cable says talks with DirecTV for Dodgers channel are over". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 4 April 2014. 
  40. ^ 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. 
  41. ^ James, Meg (March 31, 2016). "Time Warner Cable throws in the towel on Dodger channel negotiations". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2016-04-01. 
  42. ^ James, Meg (September 20, 2016). "Charter introduces Spectrum brand in Southern California". latimes.com. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2016-09-21. 
  43. ^ "Ratings for Dodgers, Astros show the challenges of starting RSN". Sportsbusinessdaily.com. September 29, 2014. 
  44. ^ a b Shaikin, Bill (2017-06-17). "Now in its fourth season, there's no end in sight for the Dodgers' TV blackout". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2017-06-18. 
  45. ^ "Time Warner to show final six Dodgers' games free on KDOC". Los Angeles Times. 15 September 2014. Retrieved 15 September 2014. 
  46. ^ "KTLA to broadcast Vin Scully's final six regular-season Dodger games". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 7 September 2016. 
  47. ^ "Justice Department Sues DIRECTV for Orchestrating Information Sharing Agreements with Three Competitors". www.justice.gov. United States Department of Justice. November 2, 2016. Retrieved 2016-11-03. 
  48. ^ a b James, Meg (2017-03-23). "Dodgers channel lawsuit settled by AT&T, but TV standoff lives on". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2017-03-24. 
  49. ^ "US gov’t sues AT&T/DirecTV, calls it "ringleader" of collusion scheme". Ars Technica. Conde Nast. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  50. ^ James, Meg (November 2, 2016). "Justice Department sues AT&T-DirecTV, alleges collusion in blocking Dodgers channel". Los Angeles Times. Tronc. Retrieved 2016-11-03. 

External linksEdit