Dodgers announce television contract with Time Warner

Stephen Dunn

The new channel, called SportsNet LA, will launch in 2014.

The Dodgers and Time Warner Cable have reached an agreement to launch a new regional sports network in 2014, both parties announced on Monday. The deal, which is pending approval from Major League Baseball, is expected to be worth between $7 and $8 billion, per Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times.

The new channel will be called Sports Net LA, and will be the exclusive home locally for the all Dodgers games beginning in 2014. The Dodgers will also provide behind the scenes programming for the network, saying in a press release there will be "more insights, analysis and commentary about the team than ever available before."

The Dodgers created American Media Productions LLP to run the network, and while the Dodgers will control the programming on SportsNet LA, Time Warner will handle all advertising and affiliate sales of the network. In addition, Time Warner will help with some aspects of non-game production and technical services.

Time Warner will carry the network throughout southern California and in Hawaii.

"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. 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," Dodgers chairman Mark Walter said in a statement. "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."

A couple of issues still remain, including just how much of the broadcast revenue will the Dodgers have to share with MLB. Will they reach a settlement with MLB or return to bankruptcy court, which dictated the terms of the purchase of the team from Frank McCourt?

In addition, it's now up to Time Warner to get Sports Net LA on as many carriers as possible. As we saw with Time Warner Cable SportsNet, the new home of the Lakers this season, the channel might not be ready to watch for some by opening day in 2014. The Lakers' station is still not on Dish Network, and it wasn't on Cox Cable (missed the first four games) or DirecTV (missed the first eight games) until after the season had started.

The Lakers' station costs $4 per month to other distributors, and Shaikin estimates that the Dodgers' new channel could cost as much as $5 per month.

But the overriding implications of this deal for the Dodgers is that they are getting paid, as this is a record broadcast deal for a sports team, at least domestically.

The team has one year left on its deals with Fox Sports (Prime Ticket) and KCAL, the networks that will broadcast games in 2013.

“Our mission is to have the most fan-friendly sports programming, and we welcome ideas and suggestions from our Dodger Community," Dodgers CEO Stan Kasten said in a statement. "We look forward to sharing updates with fans in the coming months. In the meantime, we remain very excited about the upcoming 2013 season where we will be showcasing our incredible new roster and the many enhancements to Dodger Stadium, as well as continuing our commitment to broadcast excellence with our current partners Fox Sports and KCAL 9.”

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