Just as a group of Dodgers fans were gearing up to get together for an opening-day watch party at Ye Rustic Inn in Los Feliz they realized one crucial detail was missing from their plan: Their favorite bar couldn’t show the game, because ESPN is blocked from broadcasting it. The only way to see a live broadcast of the game is by subscribing to SportsNet L.A., a channel only carried by Spectrum cable services.
So @BillShaikin just tweeted LA is blacked out on ESPN. Sorry, the bar doesn't have SNLA. That's still where the post game party will be, but those who can't attend the game shouldn't expect to be able to watch at the bar. https://t.co/bBjCmI36xS
— DontLookAtAngie (@4Ev3rblue) March 27, 2019
— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) March 27, 2019
This arrangement–which allows ESPN, Fox, and KTLA to each show a small handful of games over the course of the season, and otherwise grants exclusive television and online streaming rights to Spectrum owner Charter Communications–remains in place this year, in spite of Major League Baseball expressing interest in opening up more viewing options. On the table were proposals including expanding online streaming, partnering with DirectTV and other cable providers to offer SportsNet L.A., but no new deal has been reached.
“It’s difficult to convince people to go along with any of these creative ideas. But we will be back at it again during this off-season,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred told the Los Angeles Times last July.
For the 2019 season, a total of just 26 Dodgers games will be available outside of SportsNet L.A. A spokesperson for the Dodgers has stated the team’s desire to “resolve the situation,” but no active negotiations are underway as of today.
The team signed on for the exclusivity arrangement six seasons ago, in a deal worth $8.35 billion over 25 years. With as dramatically as media consumption has changed in the last six years, with more homes cutting the cable cord and moving to streaming and alternative providers, it remains to be seen how Spectrum and the Dodgers will adapt to fan habits over the coming years.
But, in the meantime, you’ll have to find a bar with Spectrum cable if you want to watch opening day.