By Bill Shaikin
Clayton Kershaw is scheduled to start for the Dodgers on Monday. In theory, the fans that cannot attend the game at Dodger Stadium can gather ‘round their television sets and enjoy another performance by the ace of the team and the face of a generation. Kershaw might well become the franchise’s first Hall of Fame player since Don Sutton, who last played for the team 29 years ago.
Alas, the Dodgers’ broadcasts go unseen by the majority of their fans. So do Kershaw’s heroics, including the Dodgers’ last no-hitter.
There is no end in sight to the dispute between DirecTV and Charter Communications, which inherited the mess when it bought Time Warner Cable. (Charter sells cable service under the Spectrum brand name.)
This is the fourth season of the Dodgers’ television blackout. The team has won the National League West in each of the previous three seasons. Meanwhile the team-owned SportsNet LA channel that carries the games has been unavailable in millions of homes in Southern California that don’t have Spectrum.
That does not mean that viewers in all those homes would tune in to the Dodgers’ games even if they could, of course. However, we can get an idea of the effect of the blackout by checking the ratings for the 10 games Charter and the Dodgers aired free on KTLA in April and May as simulcasts of the SportsNet LA broadcasts.
Has the blackout killed interest among a significant number of fans, or do people still want to watch the Dodgers?
They still want to watch. The average SportsNet LA broadcast this season has attracted 79,000 households. The 10-game KTLA package averaged 378,000 households, including the SportsNet LA viewers — an audience almost five times as large as the one for games aired only on the Dodgers’ channel.