A group of Southern California lawmakers has petitioned FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, seeking his help to end a regional sports network carriage impasse that has kept the Los Angeles Dodgers blacked out in about 70 percent of their market this season.
"This ongoing stalemate between Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) and other pay-TV providers has reached a point where mediation by the FCC is necessary," wrote Rep Tony Cárdenas, in a letter obtained by the Los Angeles Times. Cárdenas is one of seven Southern California government representatives who signed the letter.
TWC signed a 25-year, $8.35 billion deal with the Dodgers in January 2013 to launch a new RSN home for the team. However, demanding exceedingly high carriage fees reportedly in the range of more than $4 per subscriber, and unable to provide pay-TV operators TV Everywhere rights due to constraints mandated by Major League Baseball, TWC has been unable to strike deals with DirecTV (NASDAQ: DTV), Cox Communications, Charter Communications (NASDAQ: CHTR) and Verizon FiOS (NYSE: VZ).
The FCC recently did intervene in a long-running RSN dispute in Pittsburgh, ruling in favor of pay-TV operator Armstrong Utilities in its impasse with DirecTV Group's Root Sports Pittsburgh, home of pro baseball's Pittsburgh Pirates and the National Hockey League's Pittsburgh Penguins.
However, the FCC had the power to offer a binary arbitration process dating back to the all-stock transaction of DirecTV's assets from News Corp. to Liberty Media in 2009. "Baseball-style arbitration" was a condition of FCC's approval for that deal.
As for SportsNet LA, outside of help from the federal government, there appear to be few apparent catalysts for a deal on the horizon. There is speculation, however, that ultimate approval of Comcast's (NASDAQ: CMCSA) takeover of TWC could shake something loose, given the bargaining leverage NBCUniversal provides Comcast.
- read this Los Angeles Times story
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