By Tom Hoffarth
The premise started rather simple in what ended up as this week’s version of the L.A. Times sports media column:
A) YouTube does a swell job at streaming free MLB games.
Which reminds us …
B) The Angels stream their Fox Sports West games on the Fox Go App.
C) The Dodgers do not stream SportsNet L.A. games on the Spectrum App. Even if you subscribe to a service that gets SNLA.
That’s kinda strange, isn’t it?
D) Would the Dodgers considering taking the channel they actually own and making it available for streaming, a service that more in the younger demographic are comfortable with, and even those older can learn how to use via this YouTube template?
The Dodgers declined to comment, and Charter/Spectrum, which is in charge of the distribution, dismissed it.
The responses hold form to how both over the years remain tone deaf to this situation. And there we see the latest status of shallow disconnect, on many levels.
(That line above was in the original L.A. Times column. It didn’t make it in.)
There is plenty more nuance and read-between-the-lines elements to this story, as evidenced on social media when it was promoted, commented upon, debated, etc.
It’s an emotional subject in Los Angeles that has one winner — the Dodgers, who accepted a truckload of cash for owning this channel and getting a lucrative distribution deal that was unreasonably penciled out by Time Warner at the time — and a lot more losers.
As an example, DirecTV somehow is introduced into this headline. It’s never mentioned in the story. DirecTV is the AT&T-owned distributor that refused from the start six years ago to take on the Dodgers’ SNLA channel — as well as the Pac-12 Networks — with a domino effect resulting in other cable systems not named Charter to follow suit and refrain. Lawsuits have occurred and been squashed. Politicians have yelled and gone unheard. The Dodgers have finally been told to stop talking in the media because it could affect Charter’s deft ability to distribute the channel even less than it already has done.
At least we didn’t see the stat — 70 percent of people in L.A. can’t get SNLA. A portion of Southern California may choose not to receive it, sticking with a dish or Internet provider for their TV service. But they have access to it if they want it for a majority of the region. It’s as simple as looking at the Charter distribution map when it bought out Time Warner and finally dropped the toxic name.
Here are a few things to follow if you’re really into what’s behind this story — other than the fact we simply wanted to point out the benefits of YouTube streaming.
+ On Twitter, follow @MoneyballToo and Tom Wilson get access to his documentary. Here’s also an interview he did with KROQ in ’16.
+ Also on Twitter, follow @DodgerGameNotes. The curator is a former DTV employ who knows from the inside what happened there with the distribution talks.
+ Here are links to several stories we did on this way back when we called the “Dodger Hostage Crisis” when writing for the L.A. Daily News (and if you don’t have a subscription to this, bless you):
Hulu CEO Randy Freer, on the job since October after spending more than 20 years in charge of the Fox Sports Media Group – which included overseeing the two regional channels in L.A. – was talking to a room full of hundreds of smart business executives at the CAA World Congress of Sports last week at LA Live. Freer went from broad strokes of how sports programming rights remains strong to a very specific example about how “dynamic pricing” for customers can change the paradigm.
These days, when you yank out your cable cord or dismantle the roof-top dish and subscribe to a device on your Internet-ready TV – like Hulu or YouTube TV or Amazon Prime – you still need a new way to get to the local sports nets. A generation of today’s TV viewers have figured out end-around plays. But when that happens, the teams and channels lose the opportunity to cash in.
“How do you create an opportunity in baseball where, either through MLB.tv or with ESPN’s app, you can buy a Yankees-Red Sox game for $10 or $20 or whatever is the right price?” Freer asked. “To me, one of the bedrocks of why I think live sports is important to the business is because it has great value and you can start to offer it in a different way – reprice things, re-create value, give people an opportunity to come in and out across the board.
“Honestly I’m a little surprised in L.A., where you have some distribution channel issues, the Dodgers haven’t been more aggressive and more innovative in figuring out a way to get outside of the geography and the parameters that they’re stuck in and get out.
“Say, the Dodgers and Cubs have a series … (they can) figure out how to get it to you at the right price. Regular-season pricing could be valuable to the Dodger fan who watches 20 games.”
Internally, the Dodgers may be all for parceling out games to customers, but when asked in this instance for a comment, the team deferred to its business partners at Spectrum, which issued a blanket statement: “We are proud to deliver Dodgers fans quality broadcasts and exclusive, in-depth programming on SportsNet LA. Last season, Dodgers telecasts recorded the highest-ever season ratings on SportsNet LA and we look forward to another exciting season of 24/7 coverage celebrating the Los Angeles Dodgers 60th anniversary season.”
First, Freer is very freed-up from his previous position to make such a suggestion that would ultimately benefit Hulu and others. Were he still at Fox, it’s doubtful he’d support such a business model that would amount to just a very small percentage of income and, more importantly, would damage the exclusive nature Spectrum customers currently have in accessing the Dodgers games.
Honestly, we’re a little surprised he even brought that up as a viable option.
== “Fifth season of Dodgers’ SportsNet LA merges old issues with new concerns” from Feb., 2018
== “Media intervention needed in Dodgers, SportsNet LA mess” from 2016
== “Dodgers’ SportsNet L.A. launch has a ways to go before everyone’s satisfied” from 2014
One more thing about the YouTube coverage of the Dodgers, Angels and 13 games this season, from a consumer who checked in on that Dodgers-Phillies game last Wednesday afternoon:
“I was at work and couldn’t watch the Dodger game on YouTube live, but I knew it would be there to watch when I got home. Of course I didn’t want to know the outcome and spoil the suspense. So I bring up the game, start watching and then had to hit pause to take a phone call. But on pause, big letters came on the right side of the screen: Up next: Martin walks it off with a single in the 9th RECAP. Ruined it for me.”
Not every platform is perfect.