DirecTV rejects lawmakers' SportsNet LA appeal: Wants mediation, not arbitration

Repeating the refrain of its top executive from a week earlier, DirecTV (NASDAQ: DTV) has issued a statement saying it's not interested in an arbitration over the carriage dispute that continues to black out the Dodgers from 70 percent of the Los Angeles market.

The company will, however, consider "mediation" involving all pay-TV operators in the Los Angeles area, as well as a "compromise by the ownership of the Dodgers."

"We share the concern of Representatives Cardenas, Sherman and other local elected officials, as well as FCC chairman Wheeler, that consumers are not able to watch the L.A. Dodgers on television," reads the DirecTV statement, released Tuesday.

"Throughout our discussions with Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC)," the statement adds, "we have always kept the best interests of our more than 1 million L.A. customers at the forefront, including those who don't watch the Dodgers. It also seems that every other distributor in the market also recognizes that customers should not be forced to pay a tax nearing a half of a billion dollars for TWC's reckless decision to create three separate, overpriced RSNs."

On Monday, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) offered up further details of the arbitration plan he and other Southern California lawmakers have pitched to end the impasse.

Under this scenario, DirecTV and other local pay-TV operators would have immediate access to the new exclusive Dodgers TV home, Time Warner Cable's SportsNet LA. And the three arbitrators deciding the outcome would be well briefed on national RSN carriage fee averages that are well below the $4-plus-per-subscriber TWC is demanding for the channel.

So far, however, TWC is the only party to agree to this arbitration plan.

So what would compromise with the Dodgers entail? In January 2013, the team's new ownership group accepted an $8.35 billion deal to move Dodgers home games off Fox Sports West and road games off their decades-old perch on local broadcast station KTTV-11.

The team has used this largesse to commit to what is by far the largest player payroll in Major League Baseball, with the team's total 2014 salary figure approaching $239 million, easily eclipsing the notoriously spend-thrift New York Yankees ($209.4 million) at No. 2. 

Included in those salaries are long term commitments such as the seven-year, $215 million deal signed earlier in the year for star pitcher Clayton Kershaw, a salary figure undoubtedly rendered so rich by the team's substantial TV pact. Are Kershaw and his representatives going to "compromise" with the Dodgers simply because TWC over-estimated its market?

Indeed, for the Dodgers and TWC, compromise might not come so easy. 

For more:
- read this Multichannel News story

Related links:
SoCal lawmaker continues to sell Dodgers channel arbitration to DirecTV
DirecTV close on SEC Network deal, working with NFL, miles apart on SportsNet LA
Wheeler letter to Marcus urges TWC to clean up its SportsNet LA mess

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