Hashing out the Dodgers' SportsNet L.A. launch at this point in the process may be best expressed in frustrated Twitter hashtags.
Take your pick from #smh, #TimeWarnerCableGreed, #DodgerFansHeldHostage, #soldoutthefans, #wantmyteamback ...
Not a lot of LOLs out there. That's harsh.
The #INeedMyDodgers hologram remains up in the top left corner of the screen during SportsNet L.A. programming — for those Time Warner Cable customers who already get the channel. Maybe it's there simply as a reminder to them that there are twice as many others still without access.
If we're going to be honest here about hashing tags, the most relevant and prevalent one should be #IMissVinScully.
Yes, we're going to play the Scully card. Angst and all.
“The less I say about it, it's probably the better,” he responded when we asked recently about his thoughts on the SportsNet L.A. launch.
If this matters to anyone, Scully is a DirecTV subscriber. Imagine what happens if this thing really drags out, and the Dodgers' road trip in late April comes around, the one where they have a nine-game swing through Minnesota, Florida and Washington. That's one of the trips where he stays home.
So if he wanted to access those games from his living room, and it wasn't there, would it be proper form for him, or someone else, to tweet out “#INeedMyDodgers?”
Really, how embarrassing can this thing get?
Scully's presence is all over Dodger Stadium as the park opened Thursday for baseball (no more hockey) for the start of the Dodgers-Angels exhibition series.
There's a new clock in the left field “Think Blue Plaza” that greets fans with Scully's line: “It's time for Dodger baseball.”
The cover of the 2014 Dodgers Yearbook for sale at the concession stands has a classic portrait of Scully — one of the old Union 76 premiums given out to fans at the gas station back in the early 1980s. A fantastically extensive 21-page feature about Scully by new team director of digital and print content Jon Weisman may be the closest you'll ever get to an autobiography from the 86-year-old Hall of Fame broadcaster, who has turned down numerous offers to chronicle his life story.
About a month ago, Scully visited the TWC Sports studios in El Segundo to tape some promos — including many of those commercial spots you hear him voice over promoting the SportsNet L.A. channel's availability. He was also asked to speak to a gathering of all the TWC Sports employees for about a half hour, in part to applaud them for being part of this new venture.
“Nothing I say will ever do it service,” said TWC Sports chief David Rone about Scully's appearance. “When he walks into the room and you hear that voice and marry it to 65 years of Dodger baseball, he embodies all that is the Dodgers.
“He sat on our set and captivated our employees, sharing stories about what it means to be part of this family and how excited he was with a platform like this — all Dodgers, all the time. It was just him talking about what it means for this ownership group's commitment to making this the best franchise in all of baseball. That all resonated with all the people here working so hard with this initiative. It was a moving experience to be that up close and personal.”
Dodgers president Stan Kasten calls Scully the intangible piece of this SportsNet L.A. launch.
“We want this to be gold standard of RSNs. We're proud to be the first and only 24/7 dedicated to this one team. We happen to be a franchise whose history and legacy enables that kind of 24 hours of attention, and at the center of the whole television piece is Vin Scully,” Kasten said. “I can't overstate his significance.”
Kasten still relays a story about the time shortly after the Guggenheim group took over ownership of the team, and Scully called him to congratulate him.
Kasten got off the phone and told his wife that Scully had just called him, and she didn't seem as excited as he was.
“You don't understand, Vin Scully called me today!” he repeated to her. “In our profession, in the world of broadcasting, he's larger than life while being a great person. That's the effect he has on everyone. “We were joking here recently because we're planning our bobblehead night schedule — we're doing 11 of them, and one is for Vin. I was only half-joking when I said we should do all 11 of just Vin, in different poses. That would be way more popular.”
The most popular decision today for the Dodgers would be for someone in charge to realize that, for whatever business reasons they made in assigning TWC the task to do all the distribution deals, now is the time to take real ownership of the channel and make sure everyone has it. At any cost.
Customers of DirecTV, Charter, Comcast, Cox, AT&T Uverse and Verizon FiOS, which make up more than two-thirds of Southern California's pay-TV systems (not counting another 700,000 who rely on over-the-air antenna and will never get the channel), can still hear Scully do the first three innings of each home game he does as part of the KLAC-AM (570) simulcast. But there's that one-third slice of the equation that keeps coming up.
We just don't get it. It's a no-Vin situation that puts everyone, including Scully, in an awkward situation..
Maybe the Dodgers are banking on a heightened anticipation of a World Series appearance in 2014 to stir the undercurrent for channel begging. But the wet blanket thrown over it is the demeaning realization that, in what could be Scully's 65th and final season of calling games, they've created a self-inflicted wound. It's a situation where Scully's credibility, loyalty and connection to L.A. hves become the dangling carrot in the “it's just how we do business these days” mantra.
This really isn't such a golden moment to be putting your future business decisions in TWC's hands, by the way.
Consumer Reports issued a survey this week that put TWC 16th among 17 nationwide pay-TV services, with a rating of 58 out of 100. Its lowest marks were for value, reliability and customer support. Verizon FiOS (73), DirecTV and Dish (70) and AT&T U-verse (68) finished Nos. 3-6 in the poll behind two small internet services. If a non-TWC Southern California customer is being coaxed into dropping his current service in desperation to get the Dodgers channel, that's a huge leap of faith in that a TWC rep could even get to their house by early April and install the equipment in a satisfactory manner.
Fox Sports West carried the Angels' version of Thursday's Angels-Dodgers game and will do so again tonight. Clippers and Kings telecasts Saturday night prevent either FSW or Prime Ticket to have the Angels-Dodgers game from Angel Stadium, so it's been bumped to KCOP-Channel 13 — a rare opportunity this year for those who don't have a pay service to see the Dodgers.
Sunday's reboot of the regular season for the Dodgers in San Diego is an ESPN contest (5 p.m.), but SportsNet L.A. has exclusivity to games April 1 and 2, as well as the 1 p.m. home opener April 4 against San Francisco. Fox Sports 1 has the April 5 day game and ESPN2 takes the April 6 evening telecast.
After that, it's pretty much a SportsNet L.A. roller coaster ride, all by itself.
A couple of years ago, the wicked irony in the delayed TWC SportsNet launch during its first season of Lakers games is that the Lakers' team headquarters in El Segundo was all hooked up to DirecTV, so employees couldn't even see their own team's contests.
Around Dodger Stadium, fans waiting in line at concession stands see the in-house video feed of the game. In the press box and press room, as well as the team's offices, they're all connected with Time Warner Cable, so they don't miss anything SportsNet L.A.-wise.
When MLB commissioner Bud Selig was asked about the SportsNet L.A. launch delay recently, the man who fought so hard to oust Frank McCourt so that he couldn't personally reap the rewards of any new local TV deal offered up a wishy-washy response: “I have faith that the parties will work this out. ... We would like things to be as smooth as possible, but there are always times in life when things don't work out exactly right. But I have faith the parties will work it out and I know the parties want to work things out.”
Yeah. Thanks, Bud. But if you happened to tweet out something anytime soon, add #IMissVinScully. It might resonate more.
Gauging the media's high- and low-level marks of the week, and what's ahead:
Time Warner Cable's deal with the CIF to carry the state basketball championships this weekend comes with a slight hitch again. Back in December, when the state football finals took place in Carson, those with access to TWC's 101 Live channel were the only ones who could see the bulk of the divisional contests (aside from Internet streaming). For all of Friday's basketball games from Sacramento, that's the case again, meaning the Div. V boys game (Renaissance Academy of La Canada Flintridge vs. St. Joseph Notre Dame of Alameda at noon) and the Division III boys' game (Chaminade of West Hills vs. Sir Francis Drake of San Anselmo at 4 p.m) and are relegated to the 101 Live channel. Saturday's games, however, all line up on TWC SportsNet. That starts with the girls' Division IV final (Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth vs. Justin-Siena of Napa at 10 a.m.), and includes the boys' Division IV final (Bishop Montgomery of Torrance vs. Moreau Catholic of Hayward at noon), the girls' Division II final (Chaminade of West Hills vs. Archbishop Mitty of San Jose at 2 p.m.), the boys' Division II final (St. John Bosco of Bellflower vs. Folsom at 4 p.m.), and the girls' Open final (Long Beach Poly vs. Salesian of Richmond at 6 p.m.) Former UCLA guard Jon Crispin is the analyst on five of the six boys division finals, while Drew Shiller, a former Stanford point guard and Cal-Hi Sports' 2005 High School Athlete of the Year, has the Mater Dei-Bishop O'Dowd boys Open Division final at 8 p.m. with play-by-play man Barry Tompkins and reporter Kelli Tennant. Mary Murphy is the analyst for all six girls games this weekend, and Steve Quis calls six of the 12 games, with the other six going to Tompkins.
Four years into this CBS-Turner Sports arrangement to calling the NCAA Tournament, and Marv Albert says he thinks he's finally gotten the hang of things. The Basketball Hall of Fame broadcaster may be more accustomed to doing NBA games for TNT, but he finds himself in Anaheim this weekend (with Steve Kerr) for the conclusion of the West Regional bracket, and then it's a week off to decompress before going back to the pro game. “The funny thing about it, there was a time when you'd finish one (college) game, and another one comes, and the mindset is, ‘When does the second half start?' because the games are so different paced from the NBA,” the 72-year-old Albert said. “It's a real kick doing this now. I think you parachute into this event and educate yourself without trying to get too much information into each game because then you're just talking too much. I am much more efficient at prepping for games now, not forcing things in, and looking at things a little differently after all these years.” Albert says this time of year reminds him of his NBC days when he would often be paired with Bucky Waters on the back-up national college game to the ones Dick Enberg and Al McGuire did. It occasionally brought Albert to Pauley Pavilion to call a UCLA game. “We used to go all over the place, Saturdays and Sundays, Big East and everywhere else, and I always loved the college game,” Albert said.