LA Dodgers face SoCal TV blackout for second year in a row

DetailsMichelle Clancy | 08 April 2015

Baseball's Opening Day is highly anticipated every year, and the Los Angeles Dodgers debut this week is no exception to the trend. However, the season has begun as a television shut-out season for pay-TV subscribers.

The regional sports network (RSN) known as SportsNet LA, exclusive home of the Dodgers, is only carried by owner Time Warner Cable in the Southern California area — which leaves more than 70% of the homes in Greater Los Angeles without access to Dodgers games on TV-for the second season in a row.

At the heart of the issue, as ever, lies distribution fees. SNL Kagan estimates the cost of the channel to come in at $4.90 a month per subscriber home — which makes it the third-most expensive RSN in the States, behind the New England network that carries the Boston Red Sox and Boston Bruins, and Fox Sports North which broadcasts games of several Minnesota and Wisconsin teams.

The pricing is also on par with Yes, which carries the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets, DirecTV's Seattle sports channel. But, crucially, SportsNet A only carries one sport and one team: Dodgers baseball.

So, DirecTV, Charter Communications, Verizon FiOS and Cox Communications have all balked at the cost of the channel. And on top of that, fans in Burbank, Glendale, Long Beach and Orange County have no access to TWC, even if they wanted to switch.

Unsurprisingly, TWC isn't hitting home runs on the financial front with the situation.

Under terms of its 25-year, $8.35-billion contract with the Dodgers, the cable company has been paying the team fees of more than $200 million annually — and, the LA Times reports, absorbing losses that exceed $100 million a year.

Fans are fed up too. "This is ridiculous," Claudia Vaughn of Los Angeles, a Dodgers fan for more than 20 years, told the LA Times. "I can't believe that we are entering a second season of this mess, and the fans are the ones still stuck in the middle."

And, the Dodgers aren't sliding home on this either. The number of people watching the games on TV has, unsurprisingly, fallen from 228,000 a game in 2013 when local coverage was widespread, to an average of 56,289 last year — roughly the size of Dodger Stadium. Stadium attendance is up though—the team sold 3.8 million tickets last year, the most in Major League Baseball.