The Ballpark Enters Baseball Broadcasting Dispute

Fox Sports Net has enlisted The Ballpark Advertising Agency to help in its high-stakes battle with Time Warner Cable here over airing L.A. Dodgers baseball games.

Negotiations are ongoing regarding a surcharge Fox Sports Net is asking Time Warner to pay to air the games. To boost its cause with the public, the former is rolling out four black-and-white print ads from The Ballpark alerting Orange County’s Time Warner subscribers that they may no longer receive games on Fox Sports Net 2 as of June 27.

One ad refers to the state’s power crisis with the headline: “Rolling blackout? Try permanent blackout.” Another reads: “Say goodbye to Dodger blue. Say hello to black.”

Each ad includes a toll-free number that leads to a recorded message about the situation. The campaign also includes radio ads, mobile billboards and doorhangers.

“We want to inform fans and subscribers of Fox Sports Net that there is a situation, and if they call, they may be able to resolve it,” said Ballpark creative director Alan Berkes. “We’re not trying to scare Dodgers fans or create a public outcry.”

Eric Brown, general manager for Time Warner in Los Angeles, characterized the ads as misleading. “They’re playing upon people’s fears that they’ll lose Dodgers games when the truth is, our customers will have over 70 games on KTLA, KCAL, Fox Family and other channels,” he said.

Brown said Time Warner is being asked to pay over $1 million for 40 games—roughly $3 per customer. “If you’re a Dodgers fan and you bleed blue, it might not faze you,” he said. “But we didn’t think it was appropriate to pay that kind of money.”

The Ballpark recently did similar work for Fox Sports Net in Houston and Seattle, where the surcharge issue was resolved without missed games. Those ads featured the lines “There are reasons to miss an Astros [or Mariners] game. Your cable company shouldn’t be one of them.”

Berkes said talks are not progressing as smoothly as they did in Houston and Seattle. “We have to be more aggressive in letting people know there may be a blackout,” he said.

Spending for all three campaigns combined is estimated at under $1 million. Print ads are running in such publications as the Los Angeles Times and The Orange County Register. The Ballpark also handled media planning and buying.