Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) has come out swinging ahead of the 2016 Major League Baseball season, offering a 30 percent discount on its carriage-starved SportsNet LA regional sports network.
"Because it's such a historic season, we offered AT&T/DirecTV (NYSE: T) a price that's 30 percent off our current rate," TWC spokesman Andrew Fegyveresi told FierceCable.
Indeed, Vin Scully, the legendary play-by-play announcer for the channel's anchor tenant, the Los Angeles Dodgers, will be calling his 67th and final season for the team. But the "historic" part could just as well describe the hurt that's been applied to TWC's bottom line, which has reportedly lost around $100 million on SportsNet LA since launching the channel in 2014.
The operator is paying the Dodgers $8.35 billion over 25 years, but 60 percent of the Southern California pay-TV market doesn't have access to SportsNet LA. TWC, the top operator in the region, Charter Communications (NASDAQ: CHTR) and Bright House are the only operators to carry the channel right now.
But DirecTV, the SoCal region's No. 2 operator, as well as AT&T U-verse, Verizon FiOS (NYSE: VZ) and Cox Communications have not signed on. Fegyveresi said the 30 percent discount offer is available to all operators in the Southern California region. According to SNL Kagan, TWC was charging around $4.90 per subscriber for the RSN. The new price will be around $3.50 per customer.
Will DirecTV or any other operator take TWC up on the discount?
Cox issued a statement to the Los Angeles Times that was hardly an endorsement. The privately held operator said it hopes to reach an agreement with TWC, but not if it means "excessive price increases" for its customers.
Fegyveresi acknowledged that it's still unlikely that TWC will carve out any agreements before the Dodgers open their season on April 4.
"We've had discussions with several providers, but we don't expect any other distributors to carry SportsNet LA by Opening Day," he added. "Especially given that it's Vin Scully's last season, if fans want to see SportsNet LA and Dodgers games, they need to switch to Time Warner Cable, Charter or Bright House Networks."
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