Apr 3, 2020 - Sports

The Dodgers' Southern California television blackout has ended

Kendall Baker, author of Sports

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

After a six-year stalemate that saw almost half of Southern California blacked out from watching Dodgers games, Spectrum Networks finally reached a deal with AT&T to carry SportsNet LA, the team's regional sports network.

The backdrop: Millions of Dodgers fans have been unable to watch games on SportsNet LA since 2014, depriving them of six straight NL West titles, two World Series trips and one farewell tour for the great Vin Scully.

  • The trouble began in 2013, when the Dodgers launched SportsNet LA and sold exclusive broadcast and streaming rights to Time Warner Cable in a landmark 25-year, $8.35 billion deal.
  • TWC offered the channel to DirecTV and other competing providers, but they balked at the high price tag, leaving TWC — now Charter Spectrum — as the only distributor that carried SportsNet LA for the past six years.
  • Worth noting: In 2016, the Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit against DirecTV, accusing the company of colluding with AT&T, Cox and Charter to virtually ensure a de facto boycott of SportsNet LA.

The big picture: "And so began one of the longest-running, greed-driven, let's-take-fans-for-granted debacles in American sports history," writes Steve Lopez for the L.A. Times.

  • "One argument from the Dodgers has been that the broadcast-rights bonanza has paid to put a first-rate team on the field, but two straight World Series washouts may be penance for the deal with the devil."

What they're saying: I texted two L.A. natives for their reaction to this long-awaited deal, which still leaves customers of Dish Network and other providers out in the cold, but bodes well for them eventually getting the channel.

  • My uncle: "As someone who has lived within walking distance of Dodger Stadium for nearly six years — to literally not be able see almost all the games has been beyond bizarre. This has been such a self-inflicted wound by all parties, including MLB, who should never allow a TV contract like this again."
  • ESPN's Ramona Shelburne: "The Dodgers are a civic institution here. Not only was the team great these last few years, Vin Scully called his last baseball games. Such a shame corporate politics got in the way of that. This came from so far out of nowhere, I actually debated for a moment whether I should note it was not an April Fool's joke."

What to watch: L.A. isn't the only city where a significant number of fans have been — or might soon be — blacked out from watching games. A few examples:

  • Chicago: Marquee Sports Network, a joint venture between the Cubs and Sinclair Broadcast Group, still does not have a deal with Comcast, which boasts roughly half the TV households in the Chicago area.
  • Colorado: Nearly six months have passed without Nuggets or Avalanche programming on Comcast, Colorado's largest TV provider, and the dispute could extend through 2021.
  • New York: YouTube TV dropped YES Network last month.

Go deeper: The appeal of regional sports networks

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