In what appears to be a negotiating tactic to raise pressure on DirecTV, a Time Warner executive told The Los Angeles Times that the satellite provider abruptly ended negotiations over the new all-Dodgers channel, which has yet to strike deals with any major pay-TV provider, leaving about 70 percent of Los Angeles unable to view games.
"DirecTV has advised us that they will not carry the Dodgers this year, and they have walked away from the negotiating table," said Melinda Witmer, Time Warner Cable's executive vice president and chief video and content officer told the Times. "Given the very aggressive and unprecedented terms they put forward, it seems they are very uninterested in carrying the Dodgers."
The Times story features a back and forth between Time Warner and DirecTV worthy of junior high; DirecTV released a statement to KPCC flatly denying Time Warner's claims:
“Nothing could be further from the truth. Fans have already seen through Time Warner Cable’s deception and this is yet another transparent attempt to manipulate all TV customers throughout the region. We do intend to keep working to resolve this in the fan’s favor, we just didn’t agree to accept their latest outrageous proposal. We will continue to engage with them until this gets resolved."
A Time Warner spokeswoman declined to make Witmer or anyone else available for an interview but said the company stands by everything Witner told the Times, and that DirecTV has indeed walked away from negotiations.
With 1.2 million L.A. customers, DirecTV is the largest pay TV provider in the area after Time Warner, serving about 30 percent of L.A. subscribers, including Vin Scully and at least until recently, Dodger stadium. With exclusive rights to NFL Sunday Ticket, DirecTV has always marketed itself around sports, so not having the Dodgers would be a major blow.
DirecTV was the last major provider to agree with Time Warner to carry the Lakers channel last year and that came more than two weeks into the season. DirecTV still doesn't carry The Pac-12 networks.
Bottom line: Don't expect DirecTV and Time Warner to be singing Kumbaya anytime soon. Things could get (more) ugly.
Reactions to Time Warner's latest statement have been mixed on Twitter: