LOS ANGELES -- Opening Day is less than two months away and there are no guarantees the Los Angeles Dodgers will be available on TV to the majority of Southern California households in 2015. Nearly 70 percent of the market was unable to watch the Dodgers last season.
No doubt, as the season gets closer, the talks will get more serious between Time Warner Cable and major distributors such as DirecTV, but if you’re waiting Major League Baseball to come in and clear up the mess, you’ll be disappointed.
Last September, outgoing MLB commissioner Bud Selig said his office would do “everything we can to break the impasse.” New commissioner Rob Manfred, a longtime negotiator for the league, was more blunt in his assessment of his role in the Dodgers’ TV situation. Speaking to a group of ESPN reporters last week, Manfred said he has no role.
“Distribution issues are fundamentally issues between the rights holder and the distributors. I have no role or leverage in terms of inducing anybody to do anything in that process,” Manfred said. “We stay in touch with the Dodgers, the Dodgers are very concerned and obviously want to have distribution, as do we, but we just don’t really have a seat at that table.”
TWC guaranteed the Dodgers more than $8 billion over 25 years in exchange for exclusive marketing rights for the new SportsNet LA cable channel, but they have been unable to strike a deal with most of the Southern California distributors over the cost of carrying the channel.
The league has no power to compel the sides to reach an agreement. Civic leaders have decried the situation but also have hesitated to get too heavy-handed in wading into the dispute. It appears it will come down to public pressure, market forces and common sense if the impasse isn't to drag into a second straight season.