Dodgers fans may be left in dark when new network debuts on Feb. 25

Mark Townsend


The Los Angeles Dodgers are set to launch their own regional sports network on Feb. 25. However, as that monumental day nears, many questions remain concerning how many people in and around the Los Angeles area will actually have access to the network in its infancy stages.

The company overseeing the network, Time Warner Cable, is currently engaged in negotiations with other, essentially rival cable companies and satellite systems like DirecTV to make sure the network is available on their systems as soon as possible, but so far have not made much progress.

This could potentially be a big problem for Dodgers fans, as the soon-to-be launched SportsNet LA will be the exclusive home of Dodgers spring training and regular season games, making it the first time in team history that their games will not be available on free, over-the-air television. As the Los Angeles Times notes, if they're unable to strike deals with other providers, "hundreds of thousands" of Dodgers fans who aren't Time Warner subscribers could be left in the dark when spring games open next week, and potentially well beyond.

How long will this battle wage on? That's the big question, but there's probably some reason for real concern here since Time Warner is reportedly asking for the farm in return for distribution of the network.

Specific numbers are not known, but what is known is Time Warner agreed to a 25-year, $8.3 billion deal to run SportsNet LA. As a part of the deal, Time Warner is contracted to pay the Dodgers an annual fee beginning at $210 million in 2014. The fee increases as the years go by, so they obviously need to strike some rich deals here if they hope to make some money on their investment. They're in no hurry to lower their demands, while the providers are in no hurry to meet them.

Meanwhile, fans are just left to wait and wonder how it will play out.

It's a story we'll be keeping a close eye on as the days tick down and more details trickle in regarding the negotiations. It's probably too early for fans to panic, but as it stands right now SportsNet LA will still be a rumor to the vast majority of them when it debuts next Tuesday.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!