What if they launched a channel and nobody came?

Today marks the launch of Sportsnet LA, also known as “The Dodgers Channel.” We told you about it a year ago when it was first announced and there has been precious little news to report since. The channel will be the exclusive source for Los Angeles Dodgers games and launches today in areas of Southern California served by Time Warner Cable (about 35% of SoCal viewers use TWC.) They also managed to sign Bright House’s Bakersfield, CA operation, although since TWC actually negotiates the deals for Bright House, it’s basically like saying that your mom is coming to your school play. (It would stink if she didn’t but does she really get credit?)

DIRECTV and DISH, both of whom have strong California presences, have so far declined the channel based on the projected $8 per month per subscriber cost. Keep in mind, eight bucks doesn’t seem so bad but that could be well over half a billion dollars a year for DIRECTV, for one channel that has limited national appeal.

The Los Angeles City Council, who famously inserted their collective loafers into their collective mouths last week when they tried to meddle in DIRECTV’s dispute with The Weather Channel, has been totally mute on the subject, even though it concerns the Los Angeles baseball team, a content provider based in Los Angeles, and the country’s largest TV provider, also based in Los Angeles. Where’s the poorly-worded resolution for this one, City Council?

Regular season baseball starts in a few weeks and DIRECTV’s customers (including its sports bars) will settle for out-of-market coverage of Dodgers games for a while, as DIRECTV, DISH, Verizon, Charter, Comcast, and others show no signs of caving on Time Warner Cable’s demands. The channel’s ratings are bound to suffer if 65% of the market couldn’t watch if they want, and that’s bound to put financial pressure on both TWC and the Dodgers organization. No doubt we’ll start to see commercials on local radio and television as we did last year with TWC’s cutoff of CBS in three markets.

Putting aside that sports fans in Los Angeles can happily tune into Angels and Padres baseball or Lakers basketball, and that the city is known for having some of the least loyal (yet most lethal) fans in the nation, this is still a big deal. This may be the time when DIRECTV and others dig in their heels and simply refuse to cave in. The word is that Time Warner Cable is simply out of their minds in asking the prices they’re asking, especially after having dragged Angelenos through this same mud not even two years ago when it famously overcharged for their other sports channel, TWC Sportsnet.

Folks, it would take some serious brinksmanship to get this resolved before the first crack of the bad on March 22. Maybe this is one time the content provider will actually listen to reason… but don’t count on it. TWC Sportsnet has already invested billions in coverage fees and needs to make it back. It’s a lose-lose situation and who loses most? You.