TWC puts Dodgers channel on broadcast for pennant stretch drive

Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) has struck a deal to put the last six games of the Dodgers' season on broadcast television.

The deal with KDOC puts the team on a local Southern California independent channel carried by virtually every pay-TV operator. And these are not meaningless games. The covered games include a three-game homestand starting Sept. 22 against the San Francisco Giants, who trail Los Angeles by only three games in the National League West.

Amid a carriage impasse with DirecTV and other pay-TV operators that has left TWC SportsNet LA blacked out to the majority of Southern California homes this baseball season, it's a potentially savvy PR move by TWC. Local fans are irate and lawmakers have been appealing to the FCC for recourse. The impasse has come at a delicate time, with the FCC also reviewing TWC's acquisition by Comcast.

Terms of the deal were not announced.

This season marks the first season of a 25-year, $8 billion deal that locks up the Dodgers on a regional sports network, SportsNet LA, owned and operated by TWC, Southern California's top pay-TV operator.

However, no rival operator, including the No. 2 player in the region, DirecTV (NASDAQ: DTV), has signed on to carry the channel, leaving the majority of L.A.-area sports fans shut out from Dodgers games this season.

TWC has agreed to the Federal Communications Commission's strident demand for binding arbitration in the matter, while DirecTV will only agree to unbinding mediation.

Should the Dodgers make the postseason, games would be shown in Southern California under national contracts with ESPN and Fox.

Responding favorably to the deal, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler released this statement: "I'm pleased that now all Dodger fans will be able to join the excitement of watching the final regular season games in advance of the playoff race. The leadership of Representative [Tony] Cárdenas and [Los Angeles] Mayor [Gil] Garcetti kept this issue in the forefront and the FCC will continue to go to bat for consumers in resolving programming disputes. We hope that long-term agreements will be the next step and can be achieved quickly without depriving fans of any regular season games next year."

For more:
- read this Los Angeles Times story

Related links:
SportsNet LA standoff could 'undermine' TWC-Comcast merger, but FCC is mum
DirecTV rejects lawmakers' SportsNet LA appeal: Wants mediation, not arbitration
Playing the SportsNet LA blame game: Include the fans and the team, too

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