Dodgers TV Deal Is Endangering The Health Of The Game


The Dodgers have been one of the most exciting teams to watch in all of baseball for the past couple of seasons. This is a direct result of the franchise’s ability to outspend every other team in Major League Baseball thanks to revenue from a new massive TV deal. The problem? Almost all of Southern California has not been able to watch them play on a regular basis.

In 2013, the Dodgers  reached an agreement with Time Warner Cable Inc. on a 25-year $8.35 billion deal for the exclusive rights to broadcast Dodgers games on their new channel SportsNet LA beginning in the 2014 season. This deal has turned out to be a disaster for Dodgers fans.

Time Warner Cable, now known as Spectrum, has been unable to reach an agreement with any of the other major cable companies (Direct TV and Verizon) to carry SportsNet LA. This is mainly due to Spectrum’s absurdly high asking price of $5 per subscriber. The dispute has left the majority of Dodgers fans in the dark.

This stalemate is entering its fourth season and people are beginning to get restless. In November, the U.S. Justice Department filed a suit against AT&T (owner of Direct TV) alleging that their executives shared negotiation information with other cable providers and conspired against them to not reach an agreement with Time Warner Cable. As of March 9th, AT&T and the U.S. Justice Department are nearing a settlement of this suit.

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Unfortunately, this settlement does little to nothing to help resolve the issue. The settlement does not include language that would require AT&T to carry SportsNet LA.

However, the news is not all bad for Dodgers fans who have been left in the dark. The Dodgers have announced that they will be simulcasting 10 games on KTLA (Channel 5) in the first two months of the season. See the broadcast schedule here.

Overall, the TV deal has been a disaster for the Dodgers organization. While they have made a ton of money which has allowed them to put a more competitive ballclub on the field, they have started to lose connection and sight of their most important client: the fans. In particular, the millennials and younger fans have suffered the most due to this broadcast “blackout”.

For years, MLB has tried to implement minor changes in the game to make it more spectator friendly in order keep up in the modern fast-paced market. This is a direct response to many who believe that baseball is boring and takes too long to complete a single game. This negative stigma surrounding the “Great American Pastime” has had devastating effects seen in huge declines in youth baseball participation in recent years.

I have asked the former commissioner of baseball Bud Selig how the MLB has addressed this very issue. He told me that through baseball programs and initiatives such as the RBI Program and Urban Youth Academy, the MLB is attempting to inspire the younger generations to play the game.

With that in mind, it is baffling that the MLB has allowed this TV dispute to last this long. In the modern digital era, millennials are attracted to getting information quicker, on demand, and their utmost convenience. Without baseball readily available in Southern California, it is cast to the back burner for kids behind the other major sports such as basketball and football.

Young fans need to be able to watch the Dodgers on TV in order to idolize the players and gain an interest in the playing the game. Even if some fans are able to physically and financially able to make it to every game at Dodger Stadium, they would still miss half the season when the Dodgers head out on the road.

The Dodgers TV dilemma seems to be detrimental to the game and the exact opposite of what the MLB is trying to achieve. I would like to see the MLB step in and put some pressure on all parties involved to get a deal done.

In the meantime, I hope that the ratings for these 10 games broadcast on KTLA will be high enough to convince either Spectrum or one of the cable providers to soften their stance and reach an agreement to carry SportsNet LA.

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For now, Dodgers fans can only hope and pray that a deal is reached between Spectrum and the major cable companies. Either that or finally succumb to the pressure and switch to Spectrum.