Time Warner, Lakers and Dodgers Face|Class Claim for $11 Billion Sports Packages

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – Costs of Time Warner Cable’s $11 billion deal to broadcast Dodgers and Lakers games are unlawfully passed on to subscribers – whether they’re interested in sports or not, customers claim in a class action.
     Sherry Fischer and three other named plaintiffs sued Time Warner Cable, the Lakers and the Dodgers, in Superior Court.
     The class takes aim at two deals. In 2011, Timer Warner agreed to a $3 billion, 20-year deal to televise Lakers games. The class claims the direct and indirect costs to subscribers are an extra $4 per month.
     Time Warner cut an $8 billion deal in January to broadcast Dodgers games. The class claims that 25-year agreement adds an extra $4 to $5 per month to cable bills – $50 to $60 per year.
     The programming is bundled into “enhanced” basic cable service, according to the complaint.
     Time Warner “will extract from its customer base primarily in Southern California at least $11 billion to recoup its investment, and approximately 60 percent of this amount, or $6.6 billion, is extracted from individuals who do not want and do not watch and do not want to pay for Lakers and Dodgers telecasts and who, if given the option to do so, would opt out of such telecasts,” the complaint states.
     Time Warner will broadcast Lakers games on two channels owned by the basketball team, TWC SportsNet and TWC Deportes [Sports]. Dodgers games are broadcast on the SportsNet LA network, owned by the team, the class says.
     “There is no legitimate business, legal, technological, or economic reason why TWC [Time Warner Cable] cannot offer these Lakers and Dodgers games on a standalone channel basis so that only those subscribers who want and are willing to pay for them would do so and those who did not want these channels could ‘opt out,'” the complaint states.
     Time Warner “sold the rights to televise the Lakers channels TWC SportsNet and TWC Deportes to other multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) including Cox, Charter, DirecTV, AT&T U-Verse, and Verizon FiOS, requiring that these MVPDs include the Lakers channels on their enhanced basic cable packages. Subscribers do not have the choice opt out,” the complaint states.
     The class claims a similar deal is in the works for Dodgers games.
     Proponents of an a la carte pricing structure for cable and satellite television will likely welcome the lawsuit. The class calls the practice of bundling channels “invidious.”
     In May, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. introduced a bill in Congress to encourage cable providers to unbundle channels so customers can subscribe to only the channels they want.
     The plaintiffs seek an injunction against unlawful and/or unfair business practices under the California Business and Professions Code.
     They are represented by Maxwell Blecher with Blecher Collins Pepperman & Joye.
     Time Warner did not immediately respond to a request for comment after business hours Tuesday.

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