American Cable Association President/CEO Matt Polka thinks he sees what’s coming next after the new suitors expected to acquire the Los Angeles Dodgers close the deal. First will come a vastly increased price tag for the rights to broadcast the team’s games; then cable subscribers will be slammed once again, including many who will never watch even one single game.
Polka sees annual rights for the team’s games going from $38M now to as high as $200M-$300M annually in a long-term deal with up to $4B.
“Across America — not just in L.A. — the fundamental problem is that programmers refuse to give pay-TV operators the flexibility to provide customers with absolutely zero interest in sports – who are, after all, the majority of viewers – the right to bypass expensive sports channels that are driving up their pay-TV bills,” said Polka.
He said broadcast networks also exacerbate the problem, seeking retransmission fee increases in part to fund the deal they just struck to carry NFL football games.
Citing additional sports and general programming costs cable operators are forced to pass on to consumers whether they want the programming or not, Polka concluded, “It wouldn’t take much to give consumers a break. How about giving cable and satellite providers the option of offering expensive networks that include sports on a separate tier? This could inject badly needed discipline into a market that just seems to slam consumers with runaway sports programming costs.”
RBR-TVBR observation: It wasn’t that long ago that former FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and former Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) were pushing as hard as they could for a la carte cable menu options. It has been strongly resisted by the industry, but given the dollar amounts on the table these days, we will be amazed if calls for a la carte do not resume sometime in the near future.