Monday, July 21, 2014

Will The Dodgers Telecasts Remain A Secret?

Word is that the Dodgers are looking into a partnership or outright purchase of KLAC 570, which currently serves as the team's flagship radio station. At first, I questioned this, based on what has (or hasn't) happened when other MLB teams have bought into a radio station for their game broadcasts.

The Cardinals returned to KMOX in 2013 after the ratings disaster from their purchase of 570 AM as well as complaints from fans who could not easily pick up the broadcasts. The Angels share some of their broadcasts with KSPN 710 in order to increase their audience from the KLAA broadcasts. The Twins broadcasts are now on the much lower rated KTWN, which is also owned by the team. And so it goes.

What makes the Dodgers situation different is the team's TV contract with Time Warner and the ramifications it brings. My new theory is that a Dodgers purchase (or joint venture) of their flagship radio station plays right into their hands, and that, frankly, it is not good for the frustrated fan base.

Here is why.

If the Dodgers are going to take over KLAC, it would happen in time for the 2015 season. Since this is now late July and there is no movement on getting the Dodgers TV games into any more homes, it probably won't happen at all this season. If the team has control over the radio inventory, along with the stadium advertising, signage, web site(s), and related marketing opportunities, they can add the total multi-media package onto selling the TV spots to the limited audience.

In other words, the Dodgers could give large scale advertisers a combination of TV, radio, signage, stadium, and online commercials based on the "total" audience these combine to reach on a regular basis. Even with a TV audience limited to less than one-third of its potential, this plan, if successful, would allow the Dodgers to boast that a large percentage of their TV ads are sold out. This would help the team justify the huge contract the team has with Time Warner for years to come.

Advertisers would then be reaching the audience via TV, radio, online, and at the stadium in one media buy. If the Dodgers own and/or control the radio station, the Dodgers can appeal to even more advertisers which would participate in other station programming for an amount less than the actual games, thus creating more revenue opportunities for the team.

While team officials are acting frustrated by the Time Warner deal keeping other cable and satellite companies from airing their games, the word "acting" is meant in the literal sense. Just like the quotes last week from Commissioner Bud Selig about being frustrated about Dodgers TV. They are all saying that because they have to.

While they laugh all the way to the bank. This deal (alone) brings the Dodgers hundreds of millions of dollars each season for years to come. Even with a team payroll close to $200,000,000, this TV deal covers their costs even if no one bought tickets and they played in a closed stadium. Think about that. (There is the revenue that could very well be buying the team its own radio station!)

Here are the 2014 Dodgers seriously contending for a West Division title, and the fans continue to fill Dodger Stadium for many of the home dates. That ticket, concession, and parking revenue adds even more to the coffers. As long as the team is in the mix, fans will buy tickets. While their TV contract, no matter how few fans can watch the majority of the games, continues to pay the freight.

Why would MLB be frustrated by this? I don't think they are one bit concerned. Think back 25 years ago when the first round of massive new stadiums were being introduced. Team owners were making threats of moving the team without a new stadium deal, and several of them (new stadiums) happened. So when one prominent franchise pulls off a massive TV deal for BILLIONS (which is partially shared around all teams), it could set the template for other teams to follow. Especially if the other teams can show a "sold out" TV inventory and the ability to contend, such as the Dodgers are doing.

DirecTV appears to be frustrated over this. But when you think about it, right now they benefit from the current media wars. First of all, DirecTV is about to enter its final season of the current NFL Sunday Ticket package, so the more publicity they generate, the more possible subscribers (especially sports fans) become aware of them. If they were able to offer the Dodgers games in Southen California within a more expensive package, its percentage of the take would be that much greater, since x percent of $5 per month will mean more profit for them than x percent of $1, but they would have "no choice" in the matter.

What about Time Warner? How will they survive with a debt of billions of dollars over the next 20 years? There actually is an answer. TWC is looking to be sold, possibly to Comcast. If not, word is that Fox (Murdoch money) is next in line to acquire TWC's cable rights, which includes Turner Sports, which gets them NBA and additional MLB and PGA rights to start.

From a business standpoint, TWC can include the "billions in debt" as part of the sale conditions, and walk away from the Dodgers deal while still taking in millions for the purchase of their business. In effect, the buyer of TWC pays a lot to the Dodgers instead of the TWC people, but gets this rights deal instead.

This could very well be the reason that TWC refuses to lower the costs for other cable and satellite providers for the Dodgers games, and ultimately to the fans. They now have a valuable bargaining chip, and if they plan to be sold, the long-term profitability is no longer a major concern.

One more thing. There is one more major reason why the Dodgers want to have this "combined buy" situation for advertisers. It is not only to make the TV games fit in. Keep in mind, as much as we all hate to face it, that Vin Scully won't be around forever. It could be that he won't even be around next season, or will further reduce his schedule. And that will make even the radio package (on which Vin is heard in simulcast for three innings on the games he broadcasts) less desirable. Thus, the Dodgers want the ability to sell everything in combination.

While the team "wins" by this, Time Warner "wins", and MLB "wins" under this arrangement and the possibilities in the near future, it is only the paying fans of the team that lose out.

I hope somebody can prove me wrong on this.


Elsewhere, ESPN has chosen its August 10 Sunday Night Baseball game, which will be the Nationals vs. the Braves.


ATLANTA: The Game 92.9 has added Mike Bell to its afternoon drive show, along with Carl Dukes, and has extended the show to now air from 2 to 7 PM weekdays. What makes this an interesting hire is that Bell comes over after having most recently spent 15 years on 790 The Zone, which (790) got rid of its local programming in May.  Of course, the station still remains well behind The Fan 680/93.7 in the ratings.


SAN DIEGO: Let's go with a different syndicated programming source for XTRA Sports 1360. KLSD has decided to try Dave Palet and Jeff Dotseth, who have been hosting weekends on Fox Sports Radio, as its "local" morning team from 6 to 9 AM, and will plug in Fox Sports Radio for the midday and weekends. As of now, Steve Hartman and Mike Costa will continue locally in afternoon drive Judson Richards will continue "The Chargers Power Hour" from 6 to 7 PM and then stay on (most weeknights) for "XTRA at Night". For those scoring at home, the station simply dropped NBC Sports Radio to do this.

1 comment:

Hickory Poscery said...

This is interesting! I think the Dodgers would be taking a big risk if they switch radio stations. They could lose their "regulars," advertising, and a lot of money. That being said, if they do it right, they can gain all of the things I just mentioned. Like any other transition, this has the ability to go either way and I'm excited to see how it turns out.
Hickory | http://WLAD.com