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White: DirecTV Subs in L.A. Could See RSN Surcharge Increases

Calling fees for the upcoming Los Angeles Dodgers regional sports network, SportNet LA, more than twice those that other baseball teams charge, DirecTV chairman and CEO Mike White warned that subscribers in the L.A. market could see increases in monthly RSN surcharges if the satellite giant carrries the channel at current prices.

DirecTV began charging customers in August 2012 an additional $3 per month in markets that have multiple regional sports networks. White said on a conference call with analysts to discuss fourth quarter results that customers in the Los Angeles market should expect an increase in the RSN surcharge if the satellite giant decides to carry the network.

“I certainly think when you see these kinds of increases in a given market like the Los Angeles market has experienced with both the Lakers and the Dodgers, it’s frankly what has driven us to have to do a surcharge,” White said. “I think you can expect us to see probably a more than an average increase in that surcharge as we pick up these kinds of situations.”

The Dodgers announced SportNetLA, in which Time Warner Cable will act as exclusive affiliate and advertising agent, in January 2013.  It is expected to launch on Feb. 25.

Without giving specifics – reports have estimated charges for the network at between $4 and $5 per subscriber per month – White called the Dodger Network fee a “staggering increase relative to any other benchmark in Major League Baseball.”

‘We haven’t made any final decision,’ White said on carriage of the network. “These kinds of increases are what drive people to want to see a la carte. We will keep an open mind, I hope we can come to some acceptable terms with regard to broad carriage.”

White didn’t have much to say on DirecTV’s ongoing carriage dispute with The Weather Channel, which the satellite giant dropped in January. But he said the impact has been minimal.

“Fundamentally I continue to believe if your viewership goes down materially or customers are finding other ways to access their content like online, that should be reflected in the price that one pays for a service,” White said, adding that DirecTV may have lost “a few thousand customers in the first quarter as a result of the dispute.