Daily News, Los Angeles, Tom Hoffarth column
Jan 29, 2013 (Daily News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The vision that the Dodgers have for their new SportsNet L.A. TV channel coming in 2014 will take more shape over the next 12 months, in the time it takes their current deal with Prime Ticket and KCAL-Channel 9 to expire after one more season.
While much of what will happen is speculation in the wake of Monday's announcement that a deal was officially struck between the Dodgers and Time Warner Cable on a reported 25-year contract worth more than $7billion, we'll try to answer some of the pertinent questions brought up already:
Q: How is this arrangement any better or worse than what the Lakers did with Time Warner Cable
A: The Dodgers take a far greater risk by getting into the TV business themselves, but the greater the long-term reward is if it succeeds.
"Some team owners look at sports for different reasons, depending on their personality," said Ed Desser, head of the Desser Sports Media and an adviser to TWC in this deal with the Dodgers. "You've got high fixed costs and a variable of revenue streams. Like most businesses, you want a mixture of revenue, but when you're signing players to contracts with a high fixed cost it's nice to have a large proportion of fixed revenues so you can minimize your risks of running a business. That's what the Dodgers see in doing it this way."
Melinda Witmer, the TWC executive vice president and chief video and content officer, told the Sports Business Daily, "From the first conversation we
ever had with the team, they had already made the decision to launch their own vehicle."
Dodgers chairman Mark Walter said in a statement they already had decided to do this a year ago as a way to "provide substantial financial resources over the coming years."
The Dodgers, however, need to twist the deal in this direction to sell it to Major League Baseball. They want to maximize the amount of revenue they can keep by going at this "alone" rather than be forced to share under MLB guidelines.
Time Warner Cable figured out a way to provide the billions in assets to the team and do seemingly everything except take ownership of the SportsNet L.A. channel.
Q: Will the Dodgers go through the same issues as the Lakers in getting distribution
A: Finding room on a cable or dish network menu can be tricky depending on how motivated the distributor is and how much it senses customers will leave if it's not included.
TWC has committed to being the first distributor on board and reportedly also has agreed to pay the Dodgers whatever fees they can't collect from other distributors that hold out. That could float the Dodgers for an unlimited number of years if someone like DirecTV continues to take a stance against rising sports channel fees and refuses to add it.
Q: How much will this hit viewers in the pocketbook
A: If the Lakers' TWC SportsNet and Deportes channels went for $3.95 per subscriber, the Dodgers channel should be in the same ballpark. Perhaps as much as $5, making it one of the most expensive in the country.
Add SportsNet L.A. to TWC SportsNet, Deportes, Fox Sports West, Prime Ticket and the Pac-12 Network, and there are six channels that could run a combined $15 per month for customers. Not to mention the costs already included for ESPN's group of channels, plus the MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL league-owned channels.
Cable bills will only go up a certain percent each year, meaning
the companies often absorb a bulk of the costs.
Ultimately, the costs get passed on to the consumer, and the model of an a la carte sports menu likely will be discussed again, maybe only after a consumers' rights group demands government intervention.
Q: Does this mean there'll be no more Dodgers games on KCAL-Channel 9
A: KCAL has maintained a deal to carry 50 regular- season games, plus six exhibitions. But after this year, it's over. Just like what happened to the Lakers.
The only non-SportsNet L.A. games in 2014 and beyond would be if Fox takes a Dodger game for its Saturday regional coverage on Channel 11 or ESPN has an exclusive Sunday night game.
There have been reports that the Dodgers might ask Fox to stay in the loop and add some regular-season games on either their KTTV-Channel 11 or KCOP-Channel 13 affiliates, but that's highly doubtful. It could only realistically happen if the Dodgers are in a bind and their new channel isn't up and running by spring of 2014.
Q: Do the Dodgers plan to have a Spanish-language channel like the Lakers
A: No plans were announced on that subject. But you'd think with the Dodgers' Spanish-language base, that would be a natural. Perhaps the TWC Deportes channel buys a separate package of Dodgers Spanish-language games to fill its summer programming
Q: What kind of shows would you expect to see on the Dodgers' channel
A: Could you get behind Fly Fishing with Fernando Nick Punto's World Series of Poker Gardening Tips from Ted Lilly
Using the Lakers' TWC model, there's obviously room for an expanded pre- and post-game show every night, replaying games and maybe showing some of their minor-league affiliate games.
Because most of the other pro and college teams' rights are locked down by other networks, you probably won't see much right away in a shared deal like the Lakers have with the MLS Galaxy and WNBA Sparks.
Q: How will this affect the future of Vin Scully
A: That's often something not even the 85-year-old Hall of Famer would even guess to answer, but there should not be any reasonable concerns about the Dodgers, who pay his salary, to suddenly abandon him just because they're adjusting to a new business plan.
What's more likely to happen is Scully will reach a point where he would like to do only home games. That would leave the Dodgers to decide if their team of Eric Collins and Steve Lyons is really what they want for as many as 75-plus broadcasts away from Dodger Stadium. Perhaps that's where TWC could do well to make suggestions.
___ (c)2013 the Daily News (Los Angeles) Visit the Daily News (Los Angeles) at
www.dailynews.com Distributed by MCT Information Services
[ Satellite Spotlight's Homepage ]