Dodgers Finally Get DirecTV Deal in Los Angeles

In 2014, the Dodgers and Time Warner launched Sportsnet LA. Unfortunately, the channel hasn’t been available for a lot of Dodgers fans for the last seven seasons, as the network was never able to strike a deal with DirecTV. Despite often leading the sport in attendance and enjoying incredible popularity in a massive media market, the Dodgers had television ratings among the bottom half of teams, averaging around 100,000 fans per telecast, roughly the same number of fans watching locally in Cleveland.

But if baseball is played this season, nearly all Dodgers fans in Los Angeles will have access to the games for the first time since 2013, when a 25-year-old Clayton Kershaw won his second Cy Young award. Ramona Shelburne was the first to break the news that DirecTV will now include Sportsnet LA in their channel lineup; the network confirmed it a short time later with the following statement:

Spectrum Networks announced a carriage agreement to launch the Los Angeles Dodgers award-winning regional sports network, Spectrum Sportsnet LA, to AT&T Video subscribers beginning today. With the agreement, AT&T DirecTV, UVerse, AT&T TV and AT&T TV Now customers in Southern California, Las Vegas and Hawaii will have access to Sportsnet LA’s live game coverage when the season is cleared to begin.

The channel was originally a partnership between the Dodgers and Time Warner, but Time Warner only had around 30% of the market in Los Angeles when the network debuted, and had significant issues reaching the other 70% of homes. They tried to force their way into a market that already had three regional sports networks divvying up the Angels, Clippers, Ducks, Kings, and Lakers. Saturated with RSNs, the Dodgers couldn’t extract the high price they were hoping for and Sportsnet remained dark in millions of homes in LA. Over the years, the team entered more homes, with Charter’s purchase of Time Warner helping the network gain a greater footprint in the area, but without DirecTV, the Dodgers were still missing half of the Los Angeles market.

Dodgers President and CEO Stan Kasten described some of the struggles that helped to prevent a deal between DirecTV and the Dodgers:

A lot has happened a long the way. There were three mergers, two of them failed. There was a federal investigation against one of the other carriers. There was a lot of things that intervened that held things up, but at the end of the day, there were two companies that finally had a way to work with each other to give and get on both sides of the equation that probably hadn’t existed before this most recent acquisition. And so it just finally made too much sense for them to both reach a deal, and I just couldn’t be happier that they did.

The federal investigation, which was settled, involved DirecTV prior to AT&T purchasing the satellite giant. Before Charter purchased Time Warner, Comcast had tried to purchase the cable provider. There were certainly challenges that prevented a deal from taking place, but at its root was a channel attempting to enter a crowded marketplace and demanding a high price to do so. Several years after the network’s launch, it tried to lower the subscriber rate, but by then it was too late, with the impasse showing DirecTV it didn’t need the Dodgers. As Kasten noted, the relationship has changed and it made sense for both parties to reach an agreement.

While DirecTV is the big get for the Dodgers in Los Angeles, that’s likely not where AT&T’s interests lie. AT&T President and COO John Stankey recently said the company would be not as aggressive in marketing DirecTV in the future:

We will continue to offer satellite and DIRECTV where it has a rightful place in the market, places where cable broadband is not prevalent, oftentimes, more rural or less dense suburban areas. We’ll continue to offer it for customers on a stand-alone basis, who find its superior content offering to be something that they wish to have.

AT&T will now be pushing AT&T TV, which launched a little over a month ago. AT&T TV is a streaming bundle, much like YouTube TV and Hulu Live, offering a large group of channels like traditional cable providers, but is available over the internet. Unlike DirecTV, which already had a lot of subscribers, AT&T TV is new without that built-in subscriber base. To attract new subscribers, AT&T needs compelling television. The company owns HBO and is expected to launch HBO Max to gain new subscribers. Launching with the Dodgers and Sportnset LA (which is not available on YouTube TV or Hulu Live) is another advertising tool to entice a new audience

Both Sportnet LA and AT&T likely had something other than a suspended season in mind when they reached a deal, but it is a bit of good news when live baseball still seems to be in question. Over the last six seasons, many Dodger fans have missed out on about 1,000 Dodgers games, six division titles, an MVP/Cy Young season from Clayton Kershaw, and Vin Scully’s final season as a broadcaster. When two huge corporations couldn’t come up with a deal, it was the fans who lost out, but that period is fortunately finally over in Los Angeles. It’s good that the company’s interests finally aligned with the fans. It took far too long, but it’s nice to see baseball fans get a win even as the season itself looks to be in jeopardy.

Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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2 years ago

“AT&T President and COO John Stankey recently said the company would be not as aggressive in marketing DirecTV in the future”

Can we please get (A LOT) more bandwidth before we have to exclusively watch streaming video? Does anybody at all care about quality? I actually like watching TV. Sheesh, DirecTV is trying to kill its own product before its time.

I am glad they’re getting the Dodgers finally on the MLB package but not if I have to watch it on G-D streaming.