Dodger owners looking for their own channel?

dodgers-kasten-right-lao.jpgSeems that way, at least based on an LAT story that has the team in advanced talks with Time Warner Cable. The idea is for a partnership that would give the Dodgers a channel separate from SportsNet, which TWC launched last year as a vehicle for the Lakers. The cable provider is prepared with pay upward of $7 billion for the Dodger rights. A contract could be announced as early as this week, the Times is reporting.

Although Time Warner Cable also has a Los Angeles sports outlet (SportsNet), which is home to the Lakers and has plenty of room to accommodate the boys in blue, the Dodgers are hot for their own channel that they would control. Given that Guggenheim spent $2.15 billion for the team, that's hardly a surprise. It is banking on TV money to justify that cost and if it can own the channel too, that's more potential gravy. If the Dodgers do end up with their own network, with either Time Warner Cable or News Corp. as a partner, it would add to the glut of so-called regional sports networks eating up space on televisions here. Besides Prime Ticket and SportsNet, there is also News Corp.'s Fox Sports West and Time Warner Cable's Spanish sports network Deportes. On top of that, there are also two cable channels devoted to the Pac-12 college conference.

As costs for sports programming have increased, cable operators are raising concerns about the willingness of their customers to pick up the tab. Yet sports is a much bigger audience draw (and therefore a bigger advertising draw) than low-rated channels like Ovation, which Time Warner dropped earlier this month. Also being dropped is Current, which is being turned into the U.S. channel for Al Jazeera. From the NYT:

"We are having to take a very hard look at our lineup, not unlike a network that takes a hard look at its lineup when deciding what shows it will put on the air," said Melinda Witmer, who oversees Time Warner Cable's negotiations with channel owners. She predicted more changes in the future that would "enable us to buy the stuff that we've really got to have, and let go of stuff that's not really moving the dial."

Dodgers president Stan Kasten at Dodger Stadium last fall. LA Observed photo

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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