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DirecTV Keeps Plugging Away at NFL Sunday Ticket Renewal

Satellite TV giant looks to retain exclusive rights to package

Because sports rights are the priciest ticket in the MVPD ecosystem, White also talked a little baseball. The DirecTV boss said that talks between his company and Time Warner Cable’s new Los Angeles Dodgers network have been stymied by the startup’s unprecedentedly high sub fee.

“Look, I’d like to carry the Dodgers, but unfortunately Time Warner Cable has done an unprecedented deal for local sports rights. I mean, the Dodgers channel is over double what the average regional sports network charges per customer per game—and by the way, all the other [regional sports networks] have at least one other pro team,” White said. “So it’s a staggering increase relative to any other benchmark in Major League Baseball.”

White said that he hopes to come to terms with the RSN, but the price will have to come down sharply before an agreement can be reached.

Insiders say SportsNet LA is looking to secure the highest affiliate fee for any extant RSN, north of $4.75 per subscriber per month. That fee, which gets passed down to the customer, is the primary reason why the RSN has not been able to secure carriage on DirecTV and Cox Communications. 

Noting that DirecTV would be forced to charge “more than an average increase in our surcharge” in the Los Angeles area should it decide to carry SportsNet LA, White said that this kind of sudden billing increase “is what drives people to want to see a la carte.”

SportsNet LA is set to go live on Feb. 25.

In a non-sports-related interval, White fielded a question about how parting ways with the Weather Channel had impacted DirecTV’s sub count. “I would say we may have lost a few thousand customers in the first quarter related to the Weather Channel dispute,” he said, before qualifying his estimate with the observation that a price increase had gone into effect at the same time the two entities were falling out. 

Citing lower ratings and a plethora of available alternatives, DirecTV dropped the Weather Channel from its lineup in mid-January. 

“I continue to believe that if your viewership goes down materially or customers are finding other ways to access that content…that should be reflected in the price that one pays for a service,” White said. “The impact on our U.S. business? It’s a little early to say.”

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