If Magic Johnson buys the Sparks, will the Dodgers’ network have a second tenant?

A press conference has been scheduled for 10 a.m. tomorrow involving representatives of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks and Dodgers co-owner Magic Johnson. The Sparks are up for sale. Johnson has money.

That’s about all we know at the moment. Connect the dots at your own leisure.

Here’s what we don’t know:
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Vin Scully will call first game on SportsNet LA, which will televise spring training games every day.

Vin Scully

Vin Scully will work the first Dodgers spring training telecast on SportsNet LA. (Associated Press photo)

The Dodgers’ new network will have games every day of spring training, beginning with its inaugural telecast of the Cactus League opener between the Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks.

Vin Scully will be behind the mic for the first game televised on SportsNet LA, scheduled for noon Pacific Time on Feb. 26.

“It is an incredible honor to have the remarkable opportunity to call the very first game on the Dodger network,” Scully said in a statement released by the team. “The Dodgers’ new ownership group has done a wonderful job assembling a team to make SportsNet LA what every Dodger fan deserves, a television network just for them. I’m humbled to be a part of it.”
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Daily Distractions: SportsNet LA officially launches on February 25.

Vin Scully

Vin Scully will call all the Dodgers games in California and Arizona on SportsNet LA. (Associated Press photo)

It’s official. SportsNetLA exists.

The network has a website but it doesn’t have an actual studio yet — that’s under construction in El Segundo as I type. The network doesn’t even have a live channel; the official launch date is Feb. 25, one day before the Dodgers’ first Cactus League game. By then, Time Warner and its 2-plus million subscribers in Southern California are guaranteed to not miss a game. AT&T, Comcast, Cox, DirecTV, Dish and Verizon FiOS customers don’t have that luxury yet.

The message splashed across the top of the website, in all caps — “DEMAND YOUR DODGERS NOW” — seems to anticipate a conflict. When the Lakers broke off their relationship with Fox in 2012 to launch their own channel (TWC SportsNet), non-TWC customers were unable to watch games well into the season. The millions of Laker fans who didn’t subscribe to Time Warner became a group of angry nomads, left to seek out homes, bars, restaurants and pirate internet feeds that carried the games until their provider agreed to pay for the new channel.

Dodger fans, this could be you soon. We don’t know.

Here’s what we do know:

1. Vin Scully will broadcast all the Dodgers’ games in California and Arizona for the third straight year. Charley Steiner (who moves over from the radio play-by-play chair) and analyst Orel Hershiser (who moves over from eight years with ESPN) will call the games that Scully does not.

2. Nomar Garciaparra and Rick Monday will be the new Dodgers’ radio team on 570-AM.

3. Garciaparra and Jerry Hairston Jr. will contribute to SportsNet LA’s pre- and post-game coverage, both live from the stadium and from the SportsNet LA studio.

4. Hershiser will also be a part of the pregame broadcasts from the SportsNet LA studio on occasion.

5. Alanna Rizzo, late of the MLB Network, will be the in-game reporter during games called by Steiner and Hershiser.

6. John Hartung will be the studio host for SportsNet LA, anchoring the network’s live shows. He joins the network from KABC-TV in Los Angeles, where he spent the past 11 years as a sports and news anchor.

7. Fox’s pre- and post-game studio was set up behind the center-field fence at Dodger Stadium. That’s gone. Expect something in the area of the home dugout.

Some bullet points for Answer Your Cat’s Question Day:
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Daily Distractions: The Dodgers are starting the 2014 regular season before everyone else — again.

Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw might have three starts under his belt by the time some teams have played only five games. (Associated Press photo)


ESPN has selected the Dodgers’ first regular-season game in the United States for its first Sunday Night Baseball game of the season.

That sounds simple, but it contains some interesting implications.

The Dodgers were originally going to begin the non-Australia portion of their regular season on Monday, March 31, like every other team. That game — in San Diego — will now be played the night before, on March 30 at 8 p.m. There are no other MLB games scheduled for that day.

Dan Shulman, John Kruk, Curt Schilling and Buster Olney will broadcast the game.

But who will pitch?

If Don Mattingly hasn’t abandoned his start-Clayton-Kershaw-as-often-as-possible mantra since signing his fat new contract, expect Clayton Kershaw to start the game. The Dodgers have nine days between their second game in Australia (scheduled for 7 p.m. Pacific Time on March 22) and their first game in San Diego.

And because the game will be played a day earlier, Kershaw will have four full days of rest before the Dodgers’ home opener on April 4 against the San Francisco Giants. So Dodger fans might be the big winners in all of this.

The losers? Anyone who has a gripe about ESPN playing favorites with certain terms. The Dodgers will be, by far, the most exposed baseball team in March:

Some bullet points for a Panamanian Martyrs’ Day:
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Daily Distractions: Why the Dodgers are the team everyone in baseball loves to love.

Guggenheim Baseball Management

The Dodgers’ ownership team of Guggenheim Baseball Management, including Peter Guber, Stan Kasten, Mark Walter and Magic Johnson (left to right) helped raised the bar for television contracts across baseball.

On Friday, it was reported that the Philadelphia Phillies had struck a $2.5 billion television-rights deal with Comcast, and suddenly that four-year, $26 million contract for Carlos Ruiz didn’t seem so crippling.

In December, the Seattle Mariners signed Robinson Cano for $240 million — eight months after the team invested in its own cable broadcast partner, Root Sports Northwest.

Now flash back to 2012. The Dodgers reportedly had an offer from Fox in the range of $6 to $7 billion total to remain on Prime Ticket, then spurned their longtime regional-rights partner to form a joint venture with Time Warner. Estimates on the amount the Dodgers will receive from the partnership range into the stratosphere of $8 billion.

History may judge this transaction as a tipping point for Regional Sports Network contracts, especially since not everyone is happy about the possible repercussions for their cable bills. (That case is still active, by the way.) But baseball industry folks haven’t complained one bit since the Dodgers inked their massive TV contract, from the small market of Tampa Bay to just down the freeway in Los Angeles of Anaheim. The Dodgers’ deal raised the value of 29 teams’ regional TV rights, offering the hope of upward payroll mobility everywhere.

Remember this the next time your friends in the Bay Area claim the Dodgers are the team everyone loves to hate.

Forbes’ Maury Brown just did a tremendous Q&A on the topic of RSNs.

Some bullet points to tide you through the weekend:

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Report: Dodgers must pay $11.4 million in luxury taxes.

From the Associated Press:

According to Major League Baseball calculations Thursday, the Los Angeles Dodgers are the only team [other than the Yankees] that exceeded the tax threshold this year and must pay $11.4 million.

Figures include average annual values of contracts for players on 40-man rosters, earned bonuses and escalators, adjustments for cash in trades and $10.8 million per team in benefits.

The Yankees finished with the highest regular payroll for the 15th consecutive year, winding up at a record $237,018,889. The Dodgers were just $146,647 behind.

The Dodgers should be able to afford it. Forbes.com reported today that MLB is closer to approving the Dodgers’ new television deal, which could pay $7 billion or more. The team’s new flagship network, SportsNet LA, has already begun hiring personnel and is set to debut in 2014.

Report: Dodgers’ TV deal close to gaining approval from Major League Baseball.

This was just reported today on Bloomberg.com:

Major League Baseball is close to approving the Los Angeles Dodgers’ planned regional sports network in time for next season, preserving a major part of the record purchase of the club.

“That process is at a point where it’s pretty clear there will be approval of the Dodgers’ arrangement well before the 2014 season starts,” baseball’s Chief Operating Officer Rob Manfred said during an interview at the league’s New York headquarters.

Manfred wouldn’t give details on what remained to be cleared by MLB before the network could begin operation.

Nothing earth-shattering here; the league’s approval has been deemed a formality for some time. We know that the Dodgers are well along in the hiring process for the new network, called SportsNet LA. But it’s always worth checking in with the man who is performing the day-to-day duties of MLB commissioner.

Why the San Diego Padres are pissed about the Dodgers’ deal with Time Warner Cable.

Fox Sports San Diego

How do you spend billions of dollars and on the other hand, why will you not accept the market rate for carrying the Padres? It just doesn’t make sense to me.

– Ron Fowler, co-owner of the San Diego Padres

U-T San Diego has the story about the state of the Padres’ impasse with Time Warner Cable. The short version: Local Time Warner subscribers, about 185,000 of them, can’t watch the Padres because Time Warner won’t carry Fox Sports San Diego. The team’s co-owner has scheduled a face-to-face meeting with the cable provider to resolve the situation. This doesn’t happen often.

That quote was lifted from an interview Fowler held Friday afternoon with a local radio station. It was in reference to the Dodgers’ creation of SportsNet LA, a regional network that will launch in 2014. Time Warner is believed to have paid $7 billion-plus so its subscribers will have access to the channel. Will anyone else? That’s the question Dodgers fans will be fretting a year from now. It’s a problem for Padres fans now, and it’s something to keep an eye on.

Regardless of the outcome, the lesson here is an ugly one: Consumers simply don’t win when big money, politics, sports and cable television collide.

Say hello to ‘SportsNet LA’.

The Dodgers and Time Warner Cable officially announced the creation of a new channel, SportsNet LA, this morning.

In effect, the Dodgers will be televised on their own regional sports network beginning in the 2014 season. The next challenge will be to secure distribution among the local carriers. TWC has already agreed to be the charter distributor throughout Southern California and Hawaii.

Here’s the full text of the press release from TWC:

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