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L.A. Providers Scrimmage Over Sports

The battle for sports superiority in the Los Angeles area continues as Time Warner Cable, which has smarted from a lack of carriage for SportsNet LA, the Los Angeles Dodgers channel that it manages for the Major League Baseball team, piled on additional feeds of the Pac-12 Network to customers in the area.

Time Warner Cable added five additional Pac-12 feeds several days prior to the first scheduled college-football contest on the network — an Aug. 28 doubleheader of of Utah vs. Idaho State at 4:30 p.m. (PT), followed by Weber State vs. Arizona State at 7:30 p.m. (PT) — available to subscribers of its SportsPass tier.

The five additional channels are part of the original deal the cable operator made for the main feed of the Pac-12 channel in conference states: California, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Colorado and Arizona. Each school also gets a channel for other sports like soccer, swimming, gymnastics, water polo and the like that can be offered to distributors at a substantial discount. Pac-12 charges carriage fees of about 80 cents per subscriber per month in conference states, according to several published reports. The remaining feeds are available for “pennies,” sources familiar with the matter said.

While that doesn’t seem like a lot — the SEC Network charges about $1.30 per subscriber in-conference, and proteam RSNs like SportsNet LA charge about $4 — it can add up when spread out over a large base. With about 22 million TV homes in the sixstate Pac-12 region (according to the Television Bureau of Advertising), the annual bill for that channel alone could top $40 million if DirecTV had just 20% penetration in those markets. That for a channel that DirecTV has argued airs its best games on other networks.

A look at the Pac-12 website shows most of its football games are out-of conference matches, like South Dakota vs. Oregon (Aug. 30) and Portland State vs. Oregon State (Aug. 30), while major networks get the better games, such as USC vs. Stanford (Sept. 6 on ABC) or Michigan State vs. Oregon (Sept. 6 on Fox).

While some cynics have seen the addition of the Pac- 12 channels as an effort to pressure DirecTV and others into carrying the pricier SportsNet LA — TWC said the two are unrelated — it might be a moot point.

TWC, which carries SportsNet LA, has said the Los Angeles region was one of its best performers in the second quarter. DirecTV, which doesn’t carry the channel, said it gained customers in Los Angeles in the period. With six pro teams and seven RSNs in the market, it’s hard to make the case that adding the Pac-12 channels will make much of a difference.