The Breakdown

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Time Warner invites binding arbitration with DirecTV to solve Dodgers dispute

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Frustrated you can’t watch the Dodgers on TV? So is Sherman Oaks Congressman Brad Sherman, who called Monday for Time Warner and DirecTV to go to binding arbitration to settle their dispute.

In a letter addressed to the two bitter antagonists who’ve prevented 70 percent of Los Angeles viewers from seeing Dodgers games, Sherman wrote that Time Warner Cable and DirecTV should let a neutral third party decide the right price and terms for the Dodgers channel.

"Despite negotiations, the dispute continues and there is no indication that your companies are making progress on reaching a resolution," Sherman wrote. "The season is more than midway through and millions of Dodgers fans are still unable to watch the games."

While the two sides are hashing it out, Sherman says the Dodgers channel should be made available immediately, beginning with Tuesday night's game against the Atlanta Braves.

"Fans should no longer be left in the dark," Sherman wrote.

The letter is signed by five other Southern California members of Congress, including Rep. Janice Hahn, Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod, Rep. Alan Lowenthal, Rep. Grace Napolitano, and Rep. Karen Bass.

Time Warner and the Dodgers both said they think arbitration is a good idea, but DirecTV says it would prefer the Dodgers channel to be offered a la carte, which Time Warner has steadfastly rejected.

"We are willing to enter into binding arbitration with DirecTV, and we appreciate the Congressman’s concern for Dodger fans," Time Warner said in a statement Monday night. "We prefer to reach agreements through private business negotiations, but given the current circumstance, we are willing to agree to binding arbitration and to allow DirecTV customers to watch the Dodgers games while the arbitration is concluded."

DirecTV, meanwhile, with less to gain from arbitration, seems much less inclined to embrace Sherman's proposal.

"We agree with Congressman Sherman that any loyal Dodger fans deserve the opportunity to see games, yet not at the expense of the millions of other AT&T U-verse, Charter Communications, Cox Communications, DIRECTV, Dish Network, Mediacom, Suddenlink Communications, Verizon FiOS and other families who have little or no interest in paying for Time Warner Cable's excess," said DirecTV spokesman Robert G. Mercer in a statement. "Rather than force everyone to bail Time Warner Cable out, the simplest solution is to enable only those who want to pay to see the remaining Dodgers games to do so at the price Time Warner Cable wants to set."

Monday's letter was delivered just days after another group of politicians – which also included Rep. Hahn – called for the FCC to intervene. Sherman says binding arbitration would be a better solution to mediation, which is all the FCC can initiate. 

"While such mediation would be helpful, it would not be binding or certain to resolve the dispute," Sherman wrote.

Dodgers CEO Stan Kasten was quick to praise Sherman on Monday night.

"First, we'd like to thank the members of the California delegation, especially Congressman Brad Sherman, for putting our fans and their constituents first and doing their best to move this situation forward,” Kasten said in a statement. “We're very pleased that our partners at Time Warner Cable have readily agreed to submit SportsNet LA to binding arbitration, and we urge DirecTV to quickly agree so that we can get these games on the air for their customers.”

 

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