Frontier, Time Warner Cable to discuss Dodger channel distribution

Frontier Communications executives have agreed to meet with Time Warner Cable representatives to discuss the stalemate over carriage of SportsNet LA, the TV channel owned by the Los Angeles Dodgers — a move that could lead to a thaw in the frosty relations among pay-TV providers in Southern California.

Frontier executives this week accepted an invitation by U.S. Rep. Janice Hahn (D-San Pedro) to attend a meeting in her district office with Time Warner Cable to discuss distribution of the channel that televises Dodger games. The meeting has been scheduled for Thursday, Hahn’s spokeswoman Elizabeth Odendahl said.

Melinda White, Frontier’s west region president, declined Tuesday to discuss the meeting — or the situation with the Dodgers channel. Frontier executives have declined to say whether the company was interested in signing up for the channel.

Six weeks ago, Time Warner Cable, which distributes the channel for the Dodgers, offered a price cut to try to encourage other providers to carry the channel this season, which marks Hall of Fame announcer Vin Scully’s final season in the broadcast booth.

Only Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications distribute SportsNet LA. Other pay-TV providers, including AT&T (which owns DirecTV), Dish Network and Cox Communications, which serves Palos Verdes and Orange County, have refused to carry the channel, citing its high cost.

Separately, AT&T late last week declined Hahn’s offer to meet with Time Warner Cable to try to resolve the impasse. Frontier is the first company to accept Hahn’s invitation.

Frontier is the rookie in the two-year-old drama over the Dodgers channel. Frontier took over Verizon’s wire-line operations, including TV and Internet service, in California on April 1. But since then, the company has been working to resolve thousands of customer complaints that cropped up during the switch-over, including email outages, missing movies in DVR queues and lengthy hold times for subscribers when they call customer service.

Hahn, who is running for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, has been trying to break the impasse over SportsNet LA, saying, “Dodger fans are sick of this blackout.”

“We appreciate Frontier Communications and Time Warner Cable for agreeing to meet,” Hahn said in a statement. “I am happy to welcome Frontier to the Los Angeles region and I believe this is an opportunity to endear themselves to their new customers and to Dodger fans everywhere.”

Meanwhile, Time Warner Cable is in the process of being sold to Charter Communications. Last week, the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission chairman, Tom Wheeler, signed off on Charter’s plans to swallow Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. The California Public Utilities Commission is scheduled to vote on the Charter-Time Warner Cable merger May 12.



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