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Play ball: TWC strikes deal to carry Dodgers’ baseball channel

Mon, 01/28/2013 - 2:27pm
Mike Robuck

It’s official. After weeks of rumors, Time Warner Cable announced this morning that it had locked up the rights to carry the new Los Angeles Dodgers television channel after yanking them away from Fox Sports.

The Dodgers ownership group, which is headed by Guggenheim Partners and includes former Lakers star Earvin “Magic” Johnson, formed American Media Productions (AMP) last month to handle the creation of the new Dodgers regional network, which is called SportsNet LA.

Today, AMP said that coverage on the new sports network would start with the 2014 Major League Baseball season. In addition to being the exclusive local home for all of the Dodger games, SportsNet LA will provide behind-the-scenes Dodger programming, featuring insights, analysis and commentary about the team.

Time Warner Cable was named as SportsNet LA’s charter distributor and will carry the new network for its customers throughout Southern California and Hawaii under a long-term affiliation deal.

Terms of the deal weren’t available, but The Los Angeles Times previously reported that Time Warner Cable paid around $7 billion to carry the Dodgers games over the next two decades. Time Warner Cable wrestled the rights away from Fox Sports, which previously held them for more than 10 years.

The agreement between AMP and Time Warner Cable is subject to certain closing conditions.

“We concluded last year that the best way to give our fans what they want – more content and more Dodger baseball – was to launch our own network,” said Mark Walter, chairman of the Los Angeles Dodgers. “The creation of AMP will provide substantial financial resources over the coming years for the Dodgers to build on their storied legacy and bring a World Championship home to Los Angeles. Just as we are actively transforming the team and the stadium, we want the Dodgers to be exhibited on the very best sports network in the country – one that will provide an unrivaled fan experience.”

In addition, in return for agreeing to make payments over the life of the deal, Time Warner Cable will be the exclusive advertising and affiliate sales agent for the new network and will have certain branding and programming rights with respect to the network. The nation’s second-largest cable operator will also provide certain non-game production and technical services to AMP.

“We are delighted to support the Dodgers and their ownership group in their launch of SportsNet LA. The Dodgers have one of the most passionate and loyal audiences in sports, and we look forward to helping deliver this new network to their fans,” said David Rone, president of Time Warner Cable Sports. “This deal, like our Lakers deal, furthers our efforts to attain greater certainty and control over local and regional sports programming costs.”

Time Warner Cable bought the rights to Los Angeles Lakers games in 2011, paying an estimated $3 billion for 20 years, and launched regional sports networks covering them last year.

Time Warner Cable has invested in regional sports networks and coverage as a way to offset increased programming costs, especially from the likes of ESPN.

Time Warner Cable has its largest Wi-Fi network in the Los Angeles area, but today’s press release didn’t say whether the deal included TV Everywhere rights to companion devices. In regard to the multi-screen rights to Dodgers games and related video content, AMP didn’t return a phone call by deadline this morning.

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