Call it the "Dodgers tax." Pay-TV analysts expect Guggenheim Baseball Management, the investment group that paid an astronomical sum for the Dodgers, to recover at least part of its investment by charging a sky-high fee for the right to broadcast the team's games. With local stations and cable channels run by Time Warner Cable and News Corp. expected to get into a bidding war for those rights, the team is virtually guaranteed a multibillion-dollar contract — not unlike the one the Lakers won last year from Time Warner.
Those dollars have to come from somewhere. That's where your monthly cable bill comes in. To recover its costs, the winning network is certain to demand more from cable operators, satellite TV and phone-based video services (and advertisers too, most likely). One estimate pegged the likely increase at $3.50 per home per month. That's on top of the more than $10 that sports channels already collect, and the estimated $3.50 that Time Warner is expected to seek for its Lakers programming.
The insidious thing about these increases is that they're applied to just about everyone's pay-TV bill. The major sports networks are included in the same basic tier that offers the most popular advertiser-supported cable channels. Some consumer advocates have called for sports programming to be offered as a separate tier so the cost could be borne solely by sports fans, but the channels have fiercely resisted doing so because it would dramatically shrink their subscriber base. That, in turn, would yield less money to pay the likes of the new Dodgers owners and their star players.