On the media: How Time Warner Cable can’t get out of its own way in its #FreeDodgers campaign

first_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Like getting to smell the steak sizzling over the fence on the neighbor’s barbecue, we finally got the invite to come over and have a taste. And we were fortunate enough to watch the Dodgers clinch the National League West Division with a 9-1 thumping of the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday night.Now, get outta here. We’re changing the locks.You want to believe that some day, somehow, in some parallel universe, the negotiation process involving the Time Warner Cable SportsNet L.A. distribution will be resolved. And then A-plus, network-quality game production that has been on display the past couple of days via a friendly feed provided to KDOC Channel 56 will be as accessible to Southern California viewers as suntan oil and a beach umbrella in late October.The professionalism that all involved have shown while working in a virtual visual vacuum has been commendable, as the product hardly reflects the demoralizing experience that must have infected everything up until this point.But time and time again, Time Warner Cable can’t be trusted in this process. They proved it again this week. Orel Hershiser pulled a cellphone out of his pocket and started messing with the screen.“We had a guy who’d been hammering us the whole year on Twitter — I wish I could find this tweet,” said the Dodgers’ 1988 World Series hero and current pre- and postgame analyst on the Dodgers’ once-buried but lately visible SportsNet L.A. cable channel.“The guy finally comes back and he goes: ‘Well, I’ve been mad at you guys all year, but I just gotta say I’m really enjoying this postgame show.’ It’s like he didn’t want to say it, but he had to say it.”The fan, regrettably, speaks for a city. We’re still mad, sure. But this week, we like to check out the merchandise, like looking in the picture window at a store on Rodeo Drive. Too rich for our tastes. center_img Here’s a company that has put Vin Scully in front of a camera in what almost looks like a hostage situation, having him read cue cards about how “Time Warner Cable and its thousands of Southern California employees are part of our community and they love cheering on the Dodgers, too. … And I’m pleased that Time Warner Cable is broadcasting the final six games of the regular season, so we all join together watching the Dodgers as they make another run for the pennant.”He need not say it publicly, but plenty who work with Scully in the booth these days whisper that he was not at all pleased about having to do those TWC-paid spots that seem to be running on an endless loop during the telecasts this week. All that was missing was a blindfold and a cigarette. “It’s time for Dodgers baseball” may be his first words. What will be his last?And then we digress to watching Tuesday’s pregame show, when one of the most self-serving, disingenuous moves TWC could make since putting these last six games on over-the-air TV surfaces.Couched as some kind of public service message, and putting host John Hartung into an awkward position, Congressman Brad Sherman is at the TWC studios in El Segundo telling us how to resolve the distribution problem.What politician have you ever met who doesn’t love some camera time?The viceroy of the San Fernando Valley spent 10 minutes propagandizing about how this whole mess would be resolved if only the FCC forced DirecTV and all other dish and cable systems to binding arbitration, and he’d come away looking like Brad Deal-Broker.Hartung, the onetime KABC Channel 7 news anchor, did his best to play it legit. He eventually reminded Sherman that, with two private businesses involved in a financial matter working in a free-market system, no one can force them to do anything of the sort.“Everyone agrees the Dodgers ought to be telecast to all of Los Angeles, but they can’t agree on the price,” the Sherman tank rolled on, without directly naming DirecTV as the spike strip on this road paved in gold. “While this is a private matter, the companies involved work so closely with the Federal Communications Commission that I think there’s a role in the FCC in prodding the companies toward binding arbitration.”Sherman added he wants “this matter resolved before spring training, 2015.” Why the deadline? So his constituents get off his back?Ratings this week do show that not everyone, but many, want the games. When the Dodgers clinched the NL West title Wednesday night, Nielsen reports it did a 4.91 rating on KDOC, and another 1.50 on SportsNet LA — making it by far the highest-rated Dodger game of the season. The three games on the KDOC/SportsNet LA arrangement so far have averaged 3.87/1.26 for a 5.13 total.“I wonder what the ratings will be for the final three games against Colorado if we wrap it up tonight,” Scully said before Wednesday’s game.The networks — Fox Sports, TBS, MLB Network — will pick up the Dodgers once the playoffs start next week, so it’ll be back to fiddling with the delayed broadcast synced up with Scully’s radio call to get the true-blue experience.But this leads us to circle back to Hershiser, standing on the Dodger Stadium field before Wednesday’s game before going on the air with the pregame, trying to analyze all he knows about what’s really going on while many are getting a visual on what they’ve been missing all year — and should be even more perturbed that all this quality work has been showcased in such a small gallery.“The hard part in all this has been the communication from the fans, on Twitter and Facebook, and seeing how they are really frustrated,” acknowledged Hershiser, an expert in the field of shutouts who gave up a high-profile national gig in ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” to take this job. “This is way above our pay grade, this fight. It’s way above the fans’ pay grade. It’s a different stratosphere of major corporations.“We want to do the right thing for the fans, but I think everyone at Time Warner is frustrated about this distribution. Helpless may be the wrong word, but it’s sure close.“It’s a helpless feeling in that we are the focused bull’s-eye at some point because we’re the visible ones. But we had nothing to do with it. We can just keep asking the business guys on our end to keep us informed, and please do the best you can, and let’s get this done.”Glenn Diamond, who grew up in L.A. watching Dodgers games as a kid and still sees his family at their season seats in Section 119, came to produce Dodgers games for SportsNet L.A. after winning Emmys for his work on games for Turner Sports.He contends he’s been able to function just fine knowing that others around Major League Baseball and the MLB Network often take highlights clips and audio from their shows to showcase his team’s work.“We didn’t get caught up in all that (distribution discussion),” said Diamond, more interested in pointing out the new camera positions added to the telecasts this week, ones that were enormous in capturing the visuals of the Dodgers clinching the NL West title Wednesday night.“We’ve been focused on the quality of the games right out of the gate. I know a lot haven’t seen it, but they will.”At least through Sunday. Even if it’s all just on this small, independent Orange County channel that just wants something else to show besides reruns of “Rules of Engagement” and can’t find the irony in that.last_img read more