TV Answer Man - Update, April 9, 2014
Can I Still Watch the Dodgers On MLB Extra Innings?
ashington, D.C. (February 20, 2014) - Editor's Note: TV's Answer Man, aka Swanni, takes your questions regarding how to best use the latest products and services in TV technology. If you have a question about TV technology, ask TV's Answer Man by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Q. I read your article about the new SportsNet LA channel which now has the exclusive rights to the Los Angeles Dodgers games and I'm concerned that my TV provider, DIRECTV, may not carry it. If DIRECTV doesn't carry it, can I still watch the Dodgers on my MLB Extra Innings package? -- David, Santa Monica, California.
David, that's a trick question, but I have what I think is a simple answer.
First, you are right. SportsNet LA, which debuts February 25 and is owned by the Los Angeles Dodgers (but operated by its business partner, Time Warner Cable), has the exclusive rights to more than Dodger regular season games. And as I reported this week, it's unclear if any local TV providers besides Time Warner Cable will carry the new regional channel. DIRECTV, for instance, has hinted that it will only carry it if it can offer it as a separate channel that would require a separate fee. (Time Warner Cable and the Dodgers are unlikely to go along with that.)
So, if your local TV provider doesn't carry SportsNet LA, will you be able to watch it if you subscribe to the MLB Extra Innings pay package?
If you live in the LA market, the answer is no. In fact, even if your local TV provider in LA decides to carry SportsNet LA, the Dodgers broadcasts would be blacked out on Extra Innings. That's a long-standing policy of Major League Baseball and the other professional sports leagues. They have negotiated lucrative deals with the TV providers and if suddenly you could bypass the providers to watch your local team via an online pay package, those deals would be worth nothing.
But let's jump to a question that will affect even more people.
If your TV provider, say DIRECTV, decides not to carry SportsNet LA, will you be able to watch the SportsNet LA broadcasts in DIRECTV's Extra Innings package if you live outside the LA market?
Yesterday, I asked roughly 10 people in the pay TV industry and they were all stumped at first. No one seemed to know, although this is not the first time this question has come up. Dish, for example, does not carry any regional sports channels in the New York area, although it does not offer the Extra Innings package. (And there may be a reason for that, as I will explain shortly.)
After some double-checking, MLB spokesman Matt Bourne told me that if a TV provider decides not to carry SportsNet LA (or any regional channel that airs MLB games), the league will "make the feed available...for out-of-market carriage in MLB Extra Innings."
Amy Millstone, a spokeswoman for SportsNet LA, confirmed to TVPredictions.com that that is correct. However, Bourne added something that might explain why Dish doesn't offer the Extra Innings package.
"It's unknown whether they (the TV provider) would allocate the resources to pull (the SportsNet LA) signal down if they don't carry it on an in-market basis," Bourne said.
In other words, DIRECTV (or Dish, in the case of the missing regional channels In New York), would have to spend something to download the SportsNet LA signal to include it in their version of the Extra Innings package. That could get expensive and lead to the TV provider deciding to pass altogether on SportsNet LA. (For Dish, it would be very expensive to download the missing NY-based regional channels.)
Update, April 9, 2014: DIRECTV is showing the SportsNet LA feed to non-LA market subscribers of the MLB Extra Innings package.
It's still early in the game, as far as carriage negotiations are concerned. So DIRECTV is not commenting on the possible scenarios.
But if you live outside the LA market -- and your TV provider decides not to carry SportsNet LA in LA -- you should be able to listen to Vin Scully deliver the play-by-play of the 2014 Dodgers on your Extra Innings package. Even if your provider decided not to invest in downloading the SportsNet LA feed, you could still watch the opposing team's road broadcast.
And if your TV provider doesn't offer Extra Innings, there's always the MLB.TV online edition. But remember: You still won't be able to watch SportsNet LA in the LA market on the online Extra Innings edition, no matter what your local TV provider does.
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