The Los Angeles Dodgers ownership group created American Media Productions, LLC (AMP) in December 2012 to launch a new Los Angeles Dodgers regional sports network. Today, AMP announced its plans for SportsNet LA, the new regional television home for the Los Angeles Dodgers beginning with the 2014 Major League Baseball season. In addition to being the exclusive local home for all of the Dodger games, SportsNet LA will provide comprehensive behind-the-scenes Dodger programming, featuring more insights, analysis and commentary about the team than ever available before.
“SportsNet LA” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue — I’m guessing that much like how “SportsNet New York” is only ever referred to as “SNY”, this is going to be “SLA” or “SNLA” — but it’s an interesting choice of name. When Frank McCourt originally had this idea several years ago, he’d had the name “DTV” (i.e., “Dodger TV”) in mind, and the lack of Dodger branding here could indicate that there’s going to be more than just baseball on this channel. Not that I really have a problem with that; if the Dodgers are the primary tenant, then who cares if we’re seeing the Galaxy or UCLA or high school sports or whomever they sign up to fill some air space in the dead zone.
Back to the release..
Mark Walter, Chairman of the Los Angeles Dodgers, said, “We concluded last year that the best way to give our fans what they want – more content and more Dodger baseball – was to launch our own network. The creation of AMP will provide substantial financial resources over the coming years for the Dodgers to build on their storied legacy and bring a World Championship home to Los Angeles. Just as we are actively transforming the team and the stadium, we want the Dodgers to be exhibited on the very best sports network in the country – one that will provide an unrivaled fan experience.”
Todd Boehly, a principal owner of AMP, said, “We are greatly pleased that Time Warner Cable, the largest distributor in the marketplace, has come aboard to support the Dodgers and SportsNet LA as our charter distributor. Their presence in Los Angeles will be invaluable in helping us serve Dodger fans and our community with excellence.”
“We are delighted to support the Dodgers and their ownership group in their launch of SportsNet LA. The Dodgers have one of the most passionate and loyal audiences in sports, and we look forward to helping deliver this new network to their fans,” said David Rone, President of Time Warner Cable Sports. “This deal, like our Lakers’ deal, furthers our efforts to attain greater certainty and control over local and regional sports programming costs.”
Not pictured: FOX crying in the fetal position in the corner.
Here’s what we still don’t know:
1) The final dollar amount. I’m guessing the number falls in the $7-$8 billion range over 25 years, which, wow.
2) Who/how it’s being carried. The release indicates that Time Warner “will carry the new network for its customers throughout Southern California and Hawaii under a long-term affiliation deal”. If you live in those areas and already have Time Warner, you’re probably set, albeit with a slightly higher cable bill. What’s unclear at this point is how it will land for everyone else; other cable carriers in California will have to negotiate to carry this channel — an often contentious prospect, as we’ve seen with the Lakers, Padres, and several others — and fans outside of the area are still a very open question. It’s possible that it also lands on a satellite network or some other national carrier (I get Cubs games on WGN for some reason in my cable package) but those are still details to be worked out. Point is, it’s too soon for hand-wringing, much of which I’ve already seen.
3) The fate of free over-the-air games. I’ve long assumed that the weekly free games on KCAL would be dead, and no, that’s not greed — that’s an industry trend that’s been happening for years. A few days ago Bill Shaikin indicated the Dodgers were considering discussing a smaller deal with FOX that would keep some amount of games on free TV, but there’s no mention of it here. In fact, the press release calls the new network “the exclusive local home” of all games, so that’s probably our answer right there.
4) MLB approval. At the bottom of the release is a small line, nearly an afterthought. “The agreement with TWC is subject to certain closing conditions”. Shaikin reports that the hangup here is that the Dodgers still need to settle with MLB on how much of this deal is subject to revenue sharing, an issue we’ve been hearing about for some time. That’s still to be determined, though I’m guessing it won’t be so much of a problem that MLB would actually stand in the way of a deal that is A) now publicly announced and B) about to raise the valuation of the sport significantly.
More to come on this, no doubt. What a great time to be a Dodger fan.