SBD/March 28, 2014/Media

Kasten Expresses Frustration With Lack Of RSN Distribution As New Season Gets Under Way

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Kasten said that team execs are not directly involved in carriage negotiations
Dodgers President & CEO Stan Kasten "for the first time Thursday ... expressed frustration at the lack of progress" in carriage negotiations for the team's new RSN, Time Warner Cable SportsNet LA, according to Steve Dilbeck of the L.A. TIMES. Approximately 70% of the L.A. market will be unable to watch Dodgers-Padres on TV Tuesday since TWC is the only provider currently carrying the channel, and Kasten said, "I am disappointed that deals haven't been closed yet. And I have to tell you with the first regular-season game coming on Tuesday, I am now concerned that some fans at the start will not be able to see games. And that's disappointing and it shouldn't be happening." Dilbeck notes Sunday's opener against the Padres "will be nationally broadcast by ESPN," and the teams have Monday off. The Dodgers own SportsNet LA, but Kasten said that team execs "are not directly involved in the negotiations with other cable distributors." Kasten "would not say if the team had plans to make any special accommodations (tickets, coupons) for fans unable to watch games on TV" (L.A. TIMES, 3/28). DirecTV Head of Programming Dan York predicts that the "logjam will not break before the first week of the new season is over and perhaps not for a long time after that." York: "We're happy to carry it if the price is right for all consumers. But since the price is too high, we're happy to carry it on a sports tier or a la carte, and let Time Warner Cable determine the price themselves. We would do a typical revenue sharing deal. It has continuously balked at that." Kasten said, "There's not another team in baseball whose games are a la carte. Those same providers (who say that) have done deals at higher prices for bigger packages that has been offered to them right now. But that's the negotiations game." The Dodgers are seeking around $4 per subscriber for the channel (Alex Ben Block, HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 3/28).

TIME TO BITE THE BULLET
: In L.A., Tom Hoffarth writes the "most popular decision" the Dodgers could make right now "would be for someone in charge to realize that, for whatever business reasons they made in assigning TWC the task to do all the distribution deals, now is the time to take real ownership of the channel and make sure everyone has it." Hoffarth: "At any cost." Maybe the Dodgers "are banking on a heightened anticipation of a World Series appearance in 2014 to stir the undercurrent for channel begging." But the "wet blanket thrown over it is the demeaning realization that, in what could be" Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully’s 65th and "final season of calling games, they’ve created a self-inflicted wound" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 3/28).

WAITING GAME: In California, Michael Hewitt writes for Dodgers fans, the switch from most games being on broadcast TV and FS West last season to being solely on the Dodgers' RSN and nationally televised games this season "is a jarring change," but "also an inevitable one." The Dodgers' move "is part of the larger trend to push sports broadcasting off of free TV and onto pay services." Carriage distribution deals for SportsNet LA "will get done," as the "only question is how long the fans will have to wait." This is "similar to what happened in 2012, when the Lakers moved to the new Time Warner channels." The season "began with some carriers holding out, although nearly everyone had signed on by the seventh game." Hewitt: "What can Dodgers fans do in the meantime? Not much" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 3/28).
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