The standoff between Time Warner and other cable providers keeping Dodgers games out of most Southern California homes hasn’t budged. There’s no news today about that.
But while the Dodgers were busy wheeling and dealing last week at the Winter Meetings in San Diego, a couple notable things happened on the TV front.
One, team president and CEO Stan Kasten gave an interview with MLB Network in which he predicted the standoff would end by April 1.
“I’m reasonably confident,” Kasten told Christopher Russo, “because of all the various business deals going on. We think when that gets settled we expect the full coverage to be a part of the overall solution.”
Those “various business deals going on” include a proposed merger between Time Warner Cable and Comcast worth an estimated $45.2 billion. The CEO of Time Warner said last week that he expects government regulators to rule on the merger by early 2015. Time Warner and Comcast are the country’s two largest cable TV providers, and a merger could conceivably put SportsNet LA in the home of every local Comcast subscriber once it’s approved.
Of course, the debate surrounding the approval process encompasses more than just baseball. From TheStreet.com:
Marcus noted that he expects the FCC and the Department of Justice to rule on the merger of the country’s two largest cable-TV providers sometime after an approval deadline of March 9. Final comments from the public are now due on Dec. 23.
Comcast’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable, announced in February, has faced delays in recent months as the two companies have sought federal and state approval for a merger that opponents warn will concentrate too much pricing power and Internet oversight into one company.
Opponents of the merger argue that combining the country’s two largest cable providers would leave customers with little competition in cable and high-speed internet markets. The Stop Mega Comcast Coalition, an alliance of groups — including the Parents Television Council and the Independent Television and Telecommunications Alliance — is one of many that have emerged to block the merger.
At least Dodgers fans have an ally in Congress in a position of power, and that was the second bit of news that flew under the radar last week.
U.S. Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Panorama City) was named to the prestigious House Energy and Commerce Committee. This committee is vested with the broadest jurisdiction of any congressional authorizing committee, including issues involving telecommunications policy. The committee is expected to be at the epicenter of debates on the Comcast-Time Warner merger.
Cárdenas, you might recall, called for the FCC to mediate the SportsNet LA dispute back in July. That led to a lengthy exchange between FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Time Warner’s lawyers, but ultimately no mediation — or resolution. Cárdenas told us back in July that he was eager to end the impasse.
“Everybody has a right to negotiate and I respect that,” he said, “but there comes a point in time in some industries where it’s different.”
Cárdenas has not taken a formal stance on the proposed Comcast-Time Warner merger. A spokesman for his office said Monday that the Congressman has concerns about “media consolidation and vertical integration as well as the issues that ‘Megacomcast’ would create with independent programming providers.”
To be clear: There’s nothing here that indicates progress toward a change in either Time Warner or DirecTV’s stance toward SportsNet LA, and the cost of the channel at the center of this impasse.
But Cárdenas’ appointment to the House Energy and Commerce Committee should come as good news to Dodger fans (setting aside any unrelated issues raised by a Time Warner-Comcast megamerger). So should Kasten’s optimism.