This year, the Los Angeles Dodgers have already sold over 3 million tickets and probably will have an attendance of 4 million, give or take, by the time the season ends. But the truly amazing thing about this figure is that less viewers than that will be able to watch Dodgers (home) games on television. Think about that -- more fans will actually be able to go to a Dodgers game in person than comfortably watch a home game from the comfort of their living room.
The impasse between Time Warner's Sportsnet LA and the other television carriers, such as Directv, has now gone into its second season. There seems to be no end in sight. The Dodgers, who signed a multi-billion-dollar deal with Time Warner, are content to reap the benefits while Time Warner suffers the economic loss -- perhaps as much as $100,000 a day and certainly into the many, many millions. For Time Warner, it is a race against time. No company has a bottomless pit of cash. Bigger companies than Time Warner have declared bankruptcy in the past. And with 70 percent of the subscriber base resisting by proxy its demand for $5 per subscriber, and with advertisers having to pay only thirty cents on the dollar, it's a one-way decline.
If the Dodgers don't realize this, and if they think that the cash cow that is Time Warner is going to keep on giving over the length of their contract, well, I have a broken down pitcher I can sell you. And there is another unseen cost as well -- one that may not be apparent now, but will certainly show itself in the future. In addition to abandoning its fans who can't make it out to the ballpark -- and there are thousands -- the Dodgers are alienating a young generation of fans that might grow up with no connection to the team. It has only been a year plus a week, to be sure, but already the faces on the team are rapidly changing. Sure, we still know Clayton Kershaw and Yasiel Puig -- but who is Joc Pederson? Where is Matt Kemp? Hanley Ramirez is gone and that guy from Philly, oh yeah, Jimmy Rollins, is now here for one year until some faceless rookie takes his place. There are new pitchers named Anderson and McCarthy -- who? The bullpen is a mystery. And, heaven forbid, someday Vin Scully no longer will be heard ushering in spring, taking us through the summer, and then graduating us into the fall. We used to hang on every word -- now it's but a very fond memory... "Throw your sombreros in the air..."
If baseball is a sacred public trust, and if it truly deserves its anti-trust exemption, then the Dodgers need to be told to put their games on the air -- one way or another. Time Warner needs to realize that it's not going to get its $5 per subscriber and if it needs to re-open its negotiations with the Dodgers to pay them less per season, well, the Dodgers have to accept that and make team decisions accordingly. And they need to do it now, before one more pitch is thrown. Fans are not going to wait forever.