The new Dodgers-owned cable channel, SportsNet LA, is running into difficulties after asking pay-TV distributors to hand over the highest-ever carriage fee for a regional sports channel of its kind, reports The Wall Street Journal.
Right now, SportsNet LA is available on Time Warner Cable, although no other top pay-TV distributor is carrying it in the region, the story notes. The network is charging more than $4 per subscriber, with that fee slated to rise to more than $5 in the next few years.
“Armed with information about their customers’ viewing habits, other distributors say the data doesn’t support paying such a high price for a channel that an overwhelming majority of their subscribers won’t watch regularly,” the piece reports. “They say they aren’t worried about backlash from customers if the channel isn’t available, and they show no signs of blinking as the Dodgers prepare to open the season in Australia on March 22.”
The article adds: “According to research by pay-TV companies, fans tend to check in on their local baseball teams in the weeks following Opening Day, but then don’t become intensely interested again until midsummer, and then only if the team is in contention.”
The Dodgers chief executive, Stan Kasten, said the network should be fully distributed on basic channel lineups. Kasten, whose group also controls the channel, said the money from pay-TV operators would be invested into the team and the stadium.
Still, it’s not clear that fans will clamor for the channel. “DirecTV, as well as AT&T and other pay-TV providers, also have passed on carrying a new sports channel in Houston," the report notes. "There, too, subscriber outcry and action has been minimal, pay-TV executives say."