Friday, March 28, 2014

Feels Like We're Treading Water - Kasten Speaks About Cable Impasse

Prior to Thursday's exhibition game, Dodgers President Stan Kasten spoke with the press regarding the frustrating mess the current cable TV negotiations have been.  As you surely know, besides a handful of smaller providers, only Time Warner Cable customers have the ability to enjoy the Dodgers television channel - SportsNet LA.

Facing the pressure of an unhappy fanbase, Kasten made some comments, and I'm sure you'll want to check them out.  So, here they are.  BTW, I also added my own comments.

Please keep in mind, these quotes were provided to me by Time Warner Cable's PR group, so take this with a grain of salt.  I'm certain that this press conference was a desire to express some real frustration and part orchestrated PR move.

  • "I've been in the cable TV business my entire professional life, including 27 years at TBS, and I have never seen a better quality baseball broadcast than the one SportsNet LA now puts on."
OK, so Kasten is laying it on thick... And, I don't blame him.  SportsNet LA has been good, but I do see room for improvement. 
  • "I am disappointed that deals haven't been closed yet...With the first regular season game coming on Tuesday, I am now concerned that some fans are going to start to not be able to see the games. And that's disappointing and shouldn't be happening.
Frankly, I find the above a bit dishonest.  What did they expect would happen when they signed the mega-tv deal?  Hasn't it been the norm for carriage disputes to last unit the very last moment?  What we are seeing now between TWC and all the carriers should have been expected.
  • "I do occasionally see rhetoric that is disappointing because it's disingenuous. For instance, when some cable providers say, 'Gee, we think the Dodgers should be a la carte.' All these providers know that there is not another team in all of baseball whose games are a la carte anywhere. Including, interestingly enough, on the cable systems owned by these same providers with their own RSNs. They don't do it for themselves and by the way those same providers have their deals at higher prices for bigger packages than have been offered to them right now.
I agree with the above.
  • "The other thing that's particularly irritating in terms of disingenuous rhetoric is when some of them say, 'We're not really seeing the demand for the Dodgers.' That doesn't pass the laugh test because you know about the attendance not just here, but we also led baseball in road attendance. We have the highest number of season tickets we've ever had; it is the highest in all of Major League Baseball.  Last year our TV ratings didn't go up by 2% or 4%, they went up by 40% and look to be higher this year. So come up with some other excuse because the reality is, in the history of this franchise, it is likely that right now is the time with the greatest interest that our team has ever had."
All of the above is true.  The Dodgers have signed up 35,000 season ticket holders and have already sold 3,000,000 total tickets before the season has even started.  The demand for the Dodgers is there, and I suspect the fans will roar when they realize the season has started and they can't watch Dodger Baseball.
  • "My suggestions to the fans that still do not have Dodger games is to tell your provider that you want the games. If you do that, you will get the games. They  have to be told as many times as necessary that you want the games, that's what they're in business for. If you tell them that, they will provide it. And if it's not happening quickly enough for you, my other suggestion is to go to a provider that is providing it....Letting your provider know is at the end of the day what's going to get all of the games on TV."
Unfortunately, the burden of this mess falls on the fans.  We are left to scream and beg, while at the same time knowing that it is all out of our hands.  If cable providers haven't heard the demand from fans yet, I suspect they will once the season starts. 

Heck, I know of more than one fan who is willing to cut cable out of their life entirely if they can't get SportsNet LA.  Who needs cable if you can watch all your shows online, and its only benefit is sports?
  • On price: "Let me assure you that we're talking about market rates and very consistently what's out there now, and that's what's disappointing...This is not about price, the price is consistent with the market place. In fact, to be blunt, some of these people, and they know who they are, are already on their own systems paying more than the price that's out there to teams in smaller markets. That's the truth. This is not about price, it's about the negotiating game."
Unfortunately, this whole situation puts egg on everybody's face.  They all look bad.

Pic at the very top of Stan Kasten, via Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers 2014

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