The purported 300,000 subscribers of Charter Communications cable service in Southern California will have access to the Dodgers’ SportsNet L.A. channel beginning Tuesday at no additional charge, the company and the team said Thursday morning.
The move that affects Charter subscribers — the bulk of which in Southern California make up parts of Long Beach, Pasadena, the West Covina and some of the San Gabriel Valley, Glendale/Burbank, San Bernardino and much of the Inland Empire, Malibu and other parts of L.A. County– also allows residents of those areas who have DirecTV, Dish, AT&T Uverse or Verizon FIOS to change providers if they want access to the Dodgers-owned channel that launched in February, 2014. To date, it has only been available to Time Warner Cable subscribers as well as a small pocket of Bright House and Champion Broadband in the San Gabriel Valley.
SportsNet LA will on Charter’s Channel 44 for standard-def and Channel 789 for high def in the L.A. market. Because the Dodgers’ territorial rights expand to parts outside of Southern California, it will also be on Charter’s systems in San Luis Obispo and Porterville. The SportsNet LA Spanish-language telecast as well as secondary audio that has Korean language service is also included.
“The Dodgers are an iconic franchise and part of the fabric of the community,” said Tom Rutledge, President and CEO of Charter Communications, in a statement. “We are very excited to be bringing the Dodgers back to Charter customers in the L.A. area.”
On May 26, it was announced that Charter would seek approval to buy out Time Warner Cable in a $55-billion merger, and a promise was given that Charter customers would begin to get the Dodgers channel while the government approval began. No date was given at that time.
The fact that Charter customers will receive SportsNet LA immediately at no extra charge, as confirmed by a Charter spokesman on Thursday, is an about-face change in recent negotiations, brought on by the merger talks.
Before these merger talks began, however, Charter had dug in against Time Warner Cable, along with DirecTV and many other competitors, claiming the reported $5 per subscriber fee was too high and it did not want to pass that on to its customers who were not interested in having that channel added to their system. TWC, as well as DirecTV, have recently added surcharges to customer bills to augment the costs the companies have incurred for sports-related channels that have higher monthly fees based on rising rights fees involved in the negotiation of those deals.
The Dodgers’ deal with Time Warner Cable was reported in early 2013 to be a 25-year contract that will bring the team some $8.35 billion over that period. TWC outbid previous Dodgers’ rights holder, Fox Sports West/Prime Ticket.
The Charter launch on Tuesday will have Vin Scully calling the Dodgers’ home game against Arizona at 7:10 p.m.
Meanwhile, Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) took the opportunity to issue a statement again requesting binding arbitration for DirecTV and other cable and dish companies that have yet to accept the Time Warner Cable parameters to adding SportsNet LA.
“I am pleased that Charter Communications will begin carrying SportNet LA, but the work is not done yet,” he said. “Too many Angelenos still won’t have access to the Dodgers because of a 14 month dispute between cable companies over how to provide Los Angeles residents with access to Los Angeles Dodgers television broadcasts.
“I am reissuing an earlier request for Time Warner Cable into enter binding arbitration with DirecTV and others. This would be a fair and fast way to return programming to consumers. Time Warner Cable has agreed to enter into the arbitration process. They have offered to make SportsNet LA available immediately to all fans upon the initiation of binding arbitration. Immediate binding arbitration is the only mechanism that will get the Dodgers games on the air now.”