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Poll: The Dodgers deal and the ever-rising price of pay TV

March 29, 2012|By Jon Healey
  • Los Angeles Dodgers starter Nate Eovaldi throws to the San Francisco Giants during the first inning of a spring training game on Wednesday in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Los Angeles Dodgers starter Nate Eovaldi throws to the San Francisco Giants… (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated…)

This post has been corrected, as indicated below.

It looks like all pay-TV customers in the greater Los Angeles area will be footing part of the bill for removing Frank McCourt from the owners' box at Dodgers Stadium.

With Fox Sports West, Time Warner Cable and local stations all competing for the right to broadcast Dodgers games starting in 2014, the odds are good that the team will be able to extract the kind of multibillion-dollar deal that the Lakers reportedly negotiated with Warner last year.  The winner will then seek to recover that investment in part by seeking significantly higher fees from pay-TV operators -- possibly an additional $3.50 a month, the Wall Street Journal estimated.

My colleague Joe Flint reports that sports channels such as ESPN and Fox Sports West already add more than $10 to the monthly cable bill, according to industry analysts at SNL Kagan, and Time Warner Cable is seeking more than $3.50 a month for the new channels it's building around the Lakers. Throw in the Dodgers and you're looking at more than $17 a month just for sports programming.

That price, by the way, is based on the sports channels being included in the basic pay-TV tier, the one that also carries the most popular commercial-supported broadcast and cable networks. In other words, if you want Cartoon Network, you'll be paying for the Dodgers -- and the Lakers, Monday Night Football and every other multibillion-dollar contract that cable networks have been striking with professional sports franchises. 

If those channels were relegated to a premium sports tier, they'd attract fewer viewers and, consequently, seek higher monthly fees to pay rightsholders the handsome sums they were promised. Otherwise, they'd have to go back to the teams or leagues and seek to renegotiate, which would force the teams to try to reopen their deals with the players' unions, which would get ugly in a hurry.

So what do you think about the prospect of paying more to watch TV in order to see less of Frank McCourt? Take our woefully unscientific poll, leave a comment, or do both! 

[For the record, 12:05 p.m. March 29: An earlier version of this post said that networks would compete for the rights to Dodgers games starting in 2013. The Dodgers' current contract runs through the 2013 season.]  

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