The Giants have won two World Series championships in the last three years. But it’s the Dodgers, who haven’t been to the playoffs since 2009, who just entered a new TV deal worth over $7 billion for more than 20 years starting in 2014. As part of this pact, they join the roster of teams who have recently launched their own channels.
How does a team that hasn’t won the Series since 1988 get a deal like this? For starters, being in the second largest media market in the country helps. But it’s also about competition. The Dodgers are moving from Fox Sports’ regional Prime Ticket channel to their new outlet which the team itself will own but will be managed by Time Warner Cable, the major cable system in LA. This deal happened because Fox and TWC competed for the Dodgers, and TWC was willing to enter into a pact that gives the Dodgers a lot of cash but also its own branded network.
The Dodgers join the Yankees, the University of Texas, and their LA neighbors, the Lakers, in becoming the latest team to break away from a regional sports network to form its own outlet.
It’s also significant because the Lakers are in the inaugural season of their new self-branded channel run by TWC. In fact, one thing that everyone’s waiting to see is if the LA market is big enough to support two individual team networks. Or should TWC have negotiated to add the Dodgers to the Lakers channel?
How many regional sports channels can a region support? It appears LA will be a test case. Fox Sports West, which has the Angels and Kings, and Prime Ticket, which airs the Clippers, Ducks, and will feature the Dodgers for one more season, are the original two. But they’ve recently been joined by the new Pac-12 Network and the aforementioned Lakers-centric channel, TWC SportsNet. Is there room for another? Can they all survive?
How much money will sports fans, and non-sports fans for that matter, be willing to pay for the privilege of having all these channels available? If you haven’t been paying attention, in many cases, the costs of adding new networks such as regional sports networks (RSNs) is being passed to subscribers.
Meanwhile, back here in the Bay Area, the Giants, our most successful franchise, are no doubt watching this development with great interest. But things are a little different here.
First of all, our market is less than half of LA’s, so there are a lot fewer viewers to draw from. Secondly, the Giants, despite their World Series crowns, are worth less as an organization than the Dodgers. Painful to read I know, but true.
But most importantly, there’s no one who will compete for their TV rights. Unlike LA, where TWC and Fox battled for both the Lakers and the Dodgers, driving the prices up, we don’t have that situation here.
Comcast-NBC is the only player. It’s the major cable system around here and it also controls our two local RSNs. The Giants have a 30% stake in CSN Bay Area, but that may be the most they get.
If they were to approach Comcast when their current TV contract expires, which isn't until 2032, and declare that they wanted their own channel, similar to what the Dodgers have, and Comcast said no, where else could they turn? Even if they went off on their own and launched their own channel, as the Pac-12 did, they’d still need Comcast to carry it.
Maybe that’s good news for Giants fans. Because as long as the Giants stay where they are, Bay Area cable rates hopefully won’t increase to anything like they’re probably about to down south.
So even though it’s hard to watch the Giants dreaded rival get their very own channel while the G-men don’t, if your wallet gets a break, maybe it’s not such a bad thing. It makes it easier to afford the $11 beer at the park.