With spring training almost at hand, and Major League Baseball's Opening Day less than two months away, new league commissioner Rob Manfred has told reporters that he has no intention of stepping into the regional sports network carriage impasse that has blacked out the Los Angeles Dodgers from 70 percent of their market.
"Distribution issues are fundamentally issues between the rights holder and the distributors. I have no role or leverage in terms of inducing anybody to do anything in that process," said Manfred, who was quoted by ESPN.com. "We stay in touch with the Dodgers, the Dodgers are very concerned and obviously want to have distribution, as do we, but we just don't really have a seat at that table."
Manfred's comments are in direct contrast to those of his just-departed predecessor, who declared while still in office last September that the league would do "everything we can to break the impasse."
Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) launched SportsNet LA on the back of a 25-year, $8.35 billion deal with the Dodgers. A deal with the Southern California region's No. 2 operator, DirecTV (NASDAQ: DTV), is needed for carriage of the network to fall in line.
And the channel is heading into its second spring training with only a single carrier, TWC.
The Dodgers are reportedly reluctant to renegotiate the deal, especially after signing several large player commitments based on the current economics. TWC has agreed to binding arbitration suggested by the FCC, but DirecTV isn't interested.
The conventional wisdom is that the matter won't be decided until after the respective regulatory approvals for the AT&T/DirecTV and Comcast/TWC mergers are approved.
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