It may still have a regional sports network it can't sell, but Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) will be able to hold its head up high during a 2016 Major League Baseball season marked by growing TV viewer frustration and furor.
Venting through its preferred mouthpiece, the Los Angeles Times, TWC said it is giving up on efforts to secure broad coverage for SportsNet LA, the exclusive RSN home of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
No. 2 regional pay-TV provider DirecTV (NYSE: T) and every other local operator have "rejected every offer we've made," TWC spokesman Andrew Fegyveresi said to the paper.
"We've offered short-term deals and long-term deals, we've lowered the price by 30 percent, we've asked for arbitration, we've offered ... the same thing they charge for their regional sports networks, we've told them we'd meet them any time, anywhere to negotiate and nothing has worked," Fegyveresi added.
The TWC rep said it was offering DirecTV terms similar to what the satellite carrier charges for its Seattle-based RSN, RootSports Northwest. The exclusive local home to the Seattle Seahawks and Mariners commands, on average, $3.84 per subscriber. (Editor's note: RootSports Northwest has a lot more to offer than just baseball.)
Fegyveresi also told the paper there would be no further offers from TWC, at least not until Charter Communications (NASDAQ: CHTR) closes its takeover of the company and takes its own crack and securing distribution for the troubled RSN.
Fegyveresi demurred further comment to FierceCable, as did DirecTV.
TWC disclosed last year that lack of carriage for SportsNet LA has costs it $100 million so far. Having agreed to pay the Dodgers $8.35 billion over 25 years back in January 2013, the operator seems to have made a terrible bet, maybe not so much on the future of sports TV -- based on what the NFL and NBA are able to command right now, that seems pretty sound. Major League Baseball as a televised enterprise, however, does seem to be in a bit of trouble, also evidenced by Comcast's decision to abandon the New York Yankees and Fox's Yes Network.
For its part, TWC at least now seems to understand this. In announcing a short-term 30 percent discount offer for SportsNet LA in the Times last week, Fegyveresi conceded that the price concession was unlikely to generate an actual deal.
Indeed, TWC's moves were all about public image. And the strategy seems to have worked.
By at least appearing to earnestly and aggressively seek a deal, TWC becomes a good guy amid a third consecutive summer of discontent, one in which 60 percent of the Los Angeles-area pay-TV market won't have local access to Dodgers baseball games.
Fans and local media will be further agitated, with legendary Dodgers play-by-play man Vin Scully calling his final season. And unless DirecTV and parent company AT&T come up have a PR plan to counter what TWC just did, they'll be the ones taking the blame all summer.
- read this Los Angeles Times story
TWC further sweetens SportsNet LA deal, offers new 6-year terms
With SportsNet LA and Yes Network pay-TV impasses, sports TV is in 'crisis mode,' analyst says
DirecTV, Cox cool on TWC's 30% SportsNet LA discount