Dodgers’ SportsnetLA is a raw deal for lower income fans

Wikimedia Commons/Keith Allison

LOS ANGELES, April 7, 2014 — The Los Angeles Dodgers first shocked the sports world when they were sold for more than $2 billion. Then they shocked everyone again when the numbers from their new TV deal with TimeWarner were released.

Fans across Los Angeles rejoiced as this meant the Dodgers could now shop for free agents and outspend any team they wanted, if they wanted. They now had the cash to keep their prized prospects and go shopping for foreign prospects.

After the initial party was over, the hangover from the reality of the TV deal set in.

What happened next was like Déjà vu for sports fans in Los Angeles. The Lakers too recently signed a deal with TimeWarner and created their own channel. The only problem was that none of the other cable providers wanted to pay for the Laker channel. Fans missed the entire pre-season as TimeWarner held their ground in a standoff with the other cable providers. Once the season got closer though, the other cable providers caved in and signed on for the Laker channel and all was well.

So, when the same thing happened with the Dodgers’ channel, SportsnetLA, fans knew what to expect. There would be no Spring Training games, but everything would work itself out by the time the Dodgers played Arizona in Australia. Except everything was not okay. This time, the once bitten twice shy cable and satellite giants held their ground. They do not want to pass the less than $5 charge on to its customers, instead preferring an a la carte option for fans who want the channel to opt in.

This does not sit well with TimeWarner.

While the rest of America was watching the first game of the season on the MLB network, fans in Los Angeles were blacked out from watching their team. In fact, fans missed both games in Australia. All hope was not lost, however.

The consensus hope was that everything would be fine once the regular season started here in America. The hope was false. Nothing happened as the season kicked into full swing last week. There was name calling from both sides of the negotiations with DirectTV, as both sides accused the other of not negotiating. Regardless of what is really happening, the fans are the ones who are losing.

There are reports that Verizon is the first company to cave and pick up SportsnetLA for its customers, but these have not been confirmed. If Verizon is the first to cave, will this lead the other companies to soon cave as well? Possibly, but does it matter?

All of the games are broadcast on SportsnetLA, which means that you have to have cable or a satellite to get this channel. There are no games being broadcast on over-the-air TV, not one. As to why this is the case, TimeWarner’s website says, “We felt it was important for Dodgers fans to have an immersive, in-depth and consistent, go-to TV home for their team.”

In other words, they want Dodger fans who have enough money to afford cable to have these things. It is of no concern to have all Dodger fans be able to watch some games.

How could the Dodgers so willingly turn their back on lower income fans? Why would they not try to get at least some games on over-the-air TV as a show of good faith to a community that has never wavered in their support of the Dodgers?

Perhaps it is better to be able to listen to a winning Dodger team on the radio than to watch a losing team on TV. Sure, you still get the first three innings with Vin Scully and Charlie Steiner and Rick Monday are excellent on the radio, but the fact remains that the Dodgers have forgotten about the little guy.

Kevin J. Wells is the Sports Editor for Communities Digital News. He also writes about Major League Baseball, punk rock music and food. Follow him on Twitter @WellsOnBaseball

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  • L A Jonny

    The Dodgers should be ashamed of how they are treating their loyal fans, those fans that supported and stood behind the team through over 25 years of no World Series and only a few post season attempts. “It’s all about the fan experience” is becoming the lie perpetuated on loyal fans throughout sports…..BEWARE of the the “It’s all about the fan” rhetoric! IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MONEY!!!!!!!!!!!!! And those fans in Los Angeles are finding that out the hard way. Where do I sign up for the protest??

  • Matt

    The Dodgers are a business first and foremost why wouldn’t they take the deal they got. The Dodgers have rewarded fans with great players and an awesome stadium experience. The TV deal will get worked out eventually just be patient. Winning solves everything. You really think people are going to be bitter, ignore or think about this if they are in the World Series? If someone could really give up on “their” team so easy or Vin Scully…..were you ever truly a fan?!

  • Robert Mc Gowan

    This is a problem Dodger management has to to fix, get it Management, it’s the fans that make your wealth and make your Dodgers a prize franchise, fix it or you will lose in the long run. I never thought corporate greed would raise it ugly head in dodger town!