LA WATCHDOG--For true blue Dodger fans, the off season is one of great anticipation. The team is building its roster for the upcoming season to make another run at the elusive goal of winning the World Series.
Trades and free agency are major topics every day in the Los Angeles Times, with speculation about Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, and many other players that may be able to fill key positions in the lineup and on the mound. There is also chatter about the status of Yasiel Puig, the bat of Cody Bellinger, the health of Corey Seager, and the promising prospects in the Dodger’s farm system.
But what about the Dodger Blackout where three million households in Southern California are unable to watch the Bums on TV because of a major league pissing contest between two monster media conglomerates, AT&T (the owner of Direct TV, Warner Brothers, CNN, and HBO as well as providing mobile phone service to over 90 million customers) and Charter Communications, a company that controls the media rights to the Dodgers which are distributed to its two million cable subscribers in Southern California.
In 2013, Time Warner Cable, now owned by Charter/Spectrum, agreed to pay the Dodgers $8.35 billion over the next 25 years for the exclusive media rights to the team’s regular season games. This deal was based on the mistaken belief that DIRECTV and other pay TV companies would sign up to join this regional sports network.
But TWC/Spectrum was left holding the bag as these third party distributors, led by AT&T’s DIRECTV, were unwilling to enter into long term contracts that would hit up their customers for $5 a month (plus an annual increase). In large part, they were concerned that the added cost to their basic package would cause price sensitive customers to “cut the cord.”
There is plenty of blame to go around for this stalemate, starting with Charter/Spectrum. But this company should have some negotiating room as it most likely took a write down on the contract when it acquired Time Warner Cable in 2015 for over $75 billion. There is also speculation that Charter/Spectrum is losing over $100 million a year on this contract which should be an incentive to cut a deal that would mitigate or eliminate this annual loss.
This would include lowering the price, entering into a short term contracts with DIRECTV, or tying the per subscriber pricing to TV ratings or the Dodgers’ on field performance.
Of course, DIRECTV could be more reasonable in its demands, especially since adding the Dodgers might be a reason for subscribers not to ditch its service.
But in either case, these two media conglomerates that have a combined market value of $300 billion have holding the Dodgers hostage and denying three million households access to the Dodgers’ regular season games.
So, a pox on both their houses.
As for AT&T, call DIRCTV (888-777-2454) and tell them you want the Dodgers, or you will unsubscribe. That will strike a nerve as the satellite TV company has been losing subscribers at a faster rate than anticipated. This has resulted in a sharp drop in AT&T’s stock price.
At the same time, if you have AT&T as your mobile phone provider, switch your phone service to Verizon or T-Mobile, both of which will welcome you with open arms, offering competitive pricing, better terms, and a better network.
As for Spectrum, cut the cord, although that might be a risky strategy if you are Dodgers fan. Another alternative would be to ask for a slimmed down service which will result in lower revenue for this money hungry conglomerate. You could also discontinue premium services such as HBO, a network owned by AT&T as a result of its controversial $85 billion merger in 2018 with Time Warner Inc. (not to be confused with Time Warner Cable).
These two media conglomerates are under considerable pressure to limit the loss of subscribers and to maintain their revenue streams. By unsubscribing or lowering the level of service will send a loud and clear message that we want all the five million homes in Southern California to have the right to watch the Dodgers in the comfort of their living rooms or man caves.
(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and is the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. He is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.)