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It was like the days of Sandy Koufax. Or even Fernando Valenzuela.
Here was a Dodger pitcher, Clayton Kershaw, throwing a no-hitter at home and — for
most Angelenos — no local television available.
Koufax’s threw three no-hitters at Dodger Stadium in 1960s. I don’t believe any of
them were televised in the Los Angeles market.
In 1990, Valenzuela threw his gem. It wasn’t shown on over-the-air TV, though it was
shown on ESPN.
At that time, only about half the households in the United States had cable or
satellite.
On Wednesday night, Kershaw’s no-hitter was available to only around 30
percent of the Los Angeles TV market that has access to Sports Net LA.
About 52,000 in Southern California saw the game on Sports Net LA. Another 387,000
watched the end of the game on the MLB Network. Probably a good chunk were from
Southern California.
Last year Dodger games averaged around 225,000 viewers per game. You could
expect a much higher number for an event like a Dodger pitching a no-hitter.
This the latest chapter in the saga of ill-conceived TV rights deal that has Dodgers
fans bent out of shape and threatens to show a limit to how much local revenues
teams can garner.
Last winter Time Warner agreed to pay $8.35 billion over 25 seasons for Dodgers’ TV
rights.
Time Warner, which has cable franchises in about 30 percent of the LA market, started
a new channel and offered it to other multichannel providers — cable and satellite
providers — in the area.
Channels have two ways of making money — selling ads and charging cable and
satellite providers to a per customer fee to carry their programming.
No one is saying what Time Warner is charging, but there is speculation that is $4 per
subscriber per month. That’s high.
So the providers are saying no thanks. After all they already have to pay for several
regional sports channels. And a lot of their subscribers don’t care about Dodger games
— or any sports. They want the other programing.
This has happened before with the Dodgers. In 1997, Fox Sports started a second
regional sports channel headlined by the Dodgers. Most multichannel providers balked
at carrying the channel.
Fox sued filed an antitrust suit — asserting that the multichannel provider were
colluding to not carry the channel. The case was settled and fans got their games.
The Dodgers were late to the local TV party. At least the Los Angeles version of the
Dodgers was. The team didn’t televise most home games until well into the 1990s,
long after it was the norm for other teams in all sports but pro football.
Walter O’Malley felt that part of the reason the Brooklyn Dodgers’ attendance fell in the 1950s
was they showed too many games on local TV. He vowed not to make a similar
mistake when he moved the team West in 1958.

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