Ops Reject Sweetened Dodgers' Net Offer

Time Warner Cable has had a second olive branch slapped out of its hand in its ongoing efforts to get pay TV operators in the California market to carry regional sports network SportsNet LA, meaning baseball fans will likely miss opening day for the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday. 

According to reports, Time Warner Cable offered AT&T (and its DirecTV satellite unit) a six-year deal to carry the RSN, the first year at a 30% discount and the next five at a rate equal to what TWC pays for AT&T’s Root Sports Northwest RSN (which carries Seattle Mariners baseball games). According to SNL Kagan, Root Sports Northwest charges $3.84 per subscriber monthly.

It was the second olive branch the cable operator offered to distributors in the market. Earlier in the month, TWC said it would reduce the price of the channel by 30% for one year, to allow Dodgers fans in the market to catch the final season of legendary broadcaster Vin Scully, who plans to retire after the 2016 season. Distributors rejected the offer wholeheartedly and criticized the company for using Scully, who has been the TV voice of the Dodgers for decades, as a bargaining chip in negotiations. 

The new rate would have reduced the cost of SportsNet LA, one of the priciest RSNs according to SNL Kagan at $4.90 per subscriber per month, to about $3.50 in the first year of the deal and $3.84 in the second year and beyond. 

Time Warner Cable spokesperson Maureen Huff confirmed in an e-mail message that a new offer is on the table, but was not optimistic that a deal will be reached in time for the first pitch of the 2016 season, slated for April 4.

“So far, AT&T/DIRECTV has rejected every compromise we've offered them and we’ve seen nothing to indicate that they’re truly interested in negotiating a deal,” Huff said in an e-mail message. Huff wouldn’t give details on the latest offer but confirmed that the latest offer was for a longer-term than the one-year proposal.

Time Warner Cable has struggled to find distributors willing to carry the RSN, which it launched in 2014 after agreeing to pay $8.5 billion for rights to Dodgers games. So far, only Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications (which is in the prices of buying TWC), Bright House Networks (in the process of being bought by Charter) have agreed to pay the estimated $4.90 per subscriber per month for the channel.  

Cox Communications, which has subscribers in San Diego, wouldn’t comment on specific offers but spokesman Todd Smith said in an e-mail that the company continues "to seek a flexible, long term carriage agreement that doesn't unnecessarily burden our entire customer base. We must consider the needs of baseball fans and non-sports enthusiasts alike.”