Business & Economy

Another Dodgers season, still no TV deal in sight

ESPN carried the Dodgers' Opening Day 14-3 rout of the Padres behind ace Clayton Kershaw, but the game was blacked out in Los Angeles.
ESPN carried the Dodgers' Opening Day 14-3 rout of the Padres behind ace Clayton Kershaw, but the game was blacked out in Los Angeles.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

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Monday was Major League Baseball's Opening Day, that magical day when every team – and every fan – gets a fresh start. Unfortunately for Los Angeles Dodgers fans, that spirit doesn’t extend to the team’s cable TV deal, which still leaves about 70 percent of Southern Californians in the dark.

Despite a new corporate parent and a U.S. Justice Department lawsuit, a break in the stalemate between Charter Communications Inc. and pay-TV providers remains as elusive as ever as the dispute enters its fourth season.

Adding to fans' frustration, Monday's 14-3 rout of the San Diego Padres was broadcast nationally on ESPN but blacked out in Los Angeles.

There was hope that when Charter completed its purchase of Time Warner Cable last year that Charter would take a softer line and lower the fee it charges pay-TV providers like DirecTV, but if anything, the opposite has happened.  

"The public statements that have come out recently have been anything but conciliatory," said Lee Berke, President and CEO of LHB Sports, Entertainment & Media, Inc. "They were very much like, 'this is Dodger baseball, this is valuable, this is the price we’re charging.' They feel very aggressive in terms of how they’re handling pricing and distribution going forward."

Berke said some expected the government to step in. The U.S. Justice Department sued AT&T, which bought DirecTV in 2015, alleging that DirecTV colluded with other pay-TV providers to prevent the Dodgers channel from being distributed. But last month, the two sides settled, with AT&T only having to agree to monitor its employees.

"I thought perhaps [the Justice Department] might get involved, but they took a step back," said Berke. "They’re not putting any regulatory pressure on Charter to get a deal done – or the distributors."

In a small olive branch, fans will get to see 10 early season games this month and next on KTLA 5, beginning with Wednesday night's game against the Padres. But there's little hope for a deal to let fans see the other games, which has left many frustrated. 

Making matters worse, Monday's game was broadcast nationally on ESPN but blacked out in Southern California. For some fans, it was another slap in the face. 

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Thanks for ruining <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/OpeningDay?src=hash">#OpeningDay</a> for me <a href="https://twitter.com/Dodgers">@Dodgers</a> w/ the <a href="https://twitter.com/espn">@espn</a> blackout. Keep not caring about local fans not seeing games! <a href="https://twitter.com/MLB">@MLB</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/MLBNetwork">@MLBNetwork</a></p>&mdash; Danny Sokarda (@SadyCage) <a href="https://twitter.com/SadyCage/status/848997695289139200">April 3, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Wish I could watch the <a href="https://twitter.com/Dodgers">@Dodgers</a> openninng day but I guess greed wins... <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/whataboutthefans?src=hash">#whataboutthefans</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/OpeningDay?src=hash">#OpeningDay</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/blackout?src=hash">#blackout</a></p>&mdash; eric (@EricDuchanin) <a href="https://twitter.com/EricDuchanin/status/849003811511214080">April 3, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">IT&#39;S TIME FOR <a href="https://twitter.com/Dodgers">@Dodgers</a> BLACKOUT! Losing a generation of fans and my business forever. Cutting the cord. <a href="https://twitter.com/DIRECTV">@DIRECTV</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/MagicJohnson">@MagicJohnson</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/SportsNetLA">@SportsNetLA</a></p>&mdash; Michael (@arasehajime) <a href="https://twitter.com/arasehajime/status/849000245098815488">April 3, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>