I still think it’s one of the more interesting chapters in the history of pay television. And it goes like this.
Back then, Time Warner Cable (which isn’t even a thing anymore) announced that they would be creating a regional sports channel just for Los Angeles Dodgers fans. They’d already done this with the Lakers. The world groaned. The Dodgers were supposedly paid about eight BILLION dollars for the rights, and everyone knew there was no way for Time Warner Cable to get their money back.
SportsNet LA launched, and no one noticed. Almost no one, that is. Time Warner Cable and Brighthouse customers could get the channel, and no one else could. The cost to pay-TV companies was reputed to be higher than most of them paid for ESPN, and this was for a channel with very little programming at all outside baseball season.
Angelenos, for their part, didn’t care. While the Dodgers are certainly a beloved team, they were in a slump at the time and Southern California residents are well-known for supporting out-of market teams.
In an article published about five years ago, I told you that Time Warner Cable came out and admitted that they’d made a mistake. They’d paid too much money and the whole SportsNet LA thing was just not working for them. What we didn’t realize at the time was that nothing was working for them. Time Warner Cable (which had already been independent from Time Warner for years) was about to become part of the Charter empire. A month later, the sale closed and all Time Warner Cable local systems started calling themselves “Spectrum.” The network itself changed to Spectrum SportsNet LA, but you still couldn’t see it on DIRECTV. Charter customers got it pretty quickly after that, but there are few areas in Southern California that were served by Charter prior to the two companies becoming one.
And then there were years full of nothing. People who wanted to watch Dodgers games either got Spectrum or used MLB.TV to stream games when they weren’t blacked out. Bar owners complained, but few dropped DIRECTV. Most just kept a basic Spectrum subscription for that one channel.
In the meantime, the Dodgers actually started to not suck, which came as a surprise to many baseball fans myself included. Perhaps they were able to get some good players with that eight billion dollars they spent. It might have made a little bit of a difference.
In a year where we couldn’t keep up with the constant stream of impossible news, we finally got a little bit of happiness. It’s not known how or why, but AT&T and Charter finally agreed on a price for Spectrum SportsNet LA that both could agree on. This meant that the channel launched on DIRECTV immediately and carried all out-of-market games. Of course they still blacked out local games in local markets but that’s true of any team’s games. It also meant that the MLB Extra Innings package became a bit more valuable to people outside the LA market.
Generally DIRECTV will black out games on out-of-market regional sports networks if you have the Sports Pack. That’s fair, it drives you to the MLB Extra Innings package. You may not like it, but that’s what the package is there for.
So, other than looking back as I tend to do every Thursday, this bizarre chapter in the history of pay television is finally over. And, it has a happy ending. Life doesn’t give you an unlimited supply of those, friends. Enjoy this one.