SBD/April 5, 2016/MLB Season Preview

Most Dodgers Fans Miss Opening Day With ESPN Broadcast Blacked Out In L.A.

Customers without access to SportsNet LA were blacked out from yesterday's game
ESPN has apologized "for a misunderstanding about its plans to black out or show alternative programming" in the L.A. market instead of the Dodgers’ season opener against the Padres, according Tom Hoffarth of the L.A. DAILY NEWS. Only customers of Time Warner Cable and Charter Cable "with access to SportsNet LA could see" the game. Many who do not have TWC or Charter and planned to watch the game on ESPN "took to social media to vent frustration." The public outcry "adds to the long-running dismay that TWC ... has failed to get the channel on services like DirecTV, AT&T, Cox, Comcast or Verizon FiOS." ESPN had "been promoting for weeks that it would carry this game as part of its Monday Opening Day schedule." Dodgers Exec VP & CMO Lon Rosen said that ESPN "has the option to lift a blackout in a local market once a season but decided not to for this game." He said that the team "did know about the blackout being in effect for this opener." Hoffarth notes the Dodgers official website, which is programmed by MLB, "showed that both SNLA and ESPN would be televising the game, which also led to confusion" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 4/5). In L.A., Wilhalme & Erskine note there are certain times that ESPN "can co-exist with Time Warner Cable coverage in the L.A. market, but that is limited to 10 games." A team spokesperson said, "We'll be on a lot in L.A." (L.A. TIMES, 4/5).

CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE: In L.A., Bill Plaschke writes due to MLB's "maddening blackout rules, the ESPN national broadcast was blacked out in L.A. so it would not interfere with the Dodgers' local network," but because of the Dodgers' "own maddening blackout of SportsNet LA, more than half of L.A. viewers saw nothing." The fallout from "arguably the most disastrous business decision in the history of L.A. sports is entering its third season, but it has never been worse than Monday, when baseball's traditional day of hope filled Dodgers fans with the same old despair born of Dodgers ownership's ego and greed." Plaschke writes fans should not believe MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred "when he says he cares." Plaschke: "Certainly don't believe the Dodgers ownership when it says it cares, because it just watched another dramatic moment escape, another bit of greatness eclipsed, another connection broken, all to preserve their war chest" (L.A. TIMES, 4/5).

YES CAMPAIGN TO CONTINUE: YES Network President & CEO Tracy Dolgin said of the RSN's marketing campaign against Comcast in their ongoing carriage dispute is "not a little blip here." He said, "We intend to keep marketing this thing more and more and more until Comcast somehow changes. ... This campaign is not going to stop when the season begins." CABLEFAX DAILY notes it "seems we're a long way from a compromise." Even after Comcast was "no longer paying for YES, customer bills went up because a regional sports surcharge jumped from $1 to $3." Dolgin: "They drop the most-watched (RSN), the biggest and they triple the surcharge after they do it." Comcast Exec VP/Consumer Services Marcien Jenckes "acknowledged the rate increase, but said it doesn’t come close to covering Comcast’s costs and wasn’t related to YES." He said, "It covers on average 4 different regional sports networks in the NY DMA, and the $3 doesn’t even cover the cost of any of them" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 4/5).
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