Could years-long Dodgers TV blackout create a lost generation of young fans?

Bryon Bettencourt can name all of the Dodgers from his youth: Orel Hershiser. Hideo Nomo. Mike Piazza. He was 13, and they were immortal.

They became part of his life and he figured when he had kids, a new generation of true-blue Dodgers fans would sit with him and watch games on TV.

His son Bryson was born a year ago, and Thursday was his first Dodgers game. It was his first time seeing the Dodgers in any capacity. That’s because the Bettencourt household is like millions of households in Southern California – it is without Time Warner Cable. And without Time Warner Cable, the Dodgers aren’t on television. It’s going on three seasons now like this for DirecTV, DISH Network or antenna-only customers.

“It’s kind of sad,” Bettencourt said. “We’ll get to four or five games a year, but that’s about it.”

With the Angels on television constantly, Bettencourt could see his young son being a fan of the team based in Anaheim with Mike Trout still in his prime.

“When you’re young, they’re your heroes,’ he said. “And of course, you’re going to want to see your heroes as much as possible.”


The Dodgers dedicated Vin Scully Avenue this past week with a ceremony at the stadium. Scully, who announced this would be his last season as the team’s iconic announcer, was lauded by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti as the man who helped fans “understand the game better.”

Los Angeles City Councilman Gil Cedillo said at the ceremony that watching and listening to the games builds a connection between the fans and the team.

“Vin Scully is that bridge to our history,” Cedillo said. “All of us have this personal relationship with the Dodgers and with Vin Scully. It is our relationship.”

That includes seeing the team play on a daily basis – the special osmosis that happens with kids when rosters are cemented in their minds over days and days of hearing names of hitters and pitchers.

Dan Durbin, director for the USC Annenberg Institute of Sports, Media & Society, said the Dodgers should be worried about losing young fans as they grow older and don’t have memories of seeing big games or moments on TV.

“They are making so much money in the rights and fees, it doesn’t matter in the short term,” he said. “But they don’t see the long-term damage they’re doing. New fans don’t show up if they don’t broadcast in the homes. They’re making money on people who are already committed fans and they’re not opened up as easily to new fans.”


For years, the Dodgers were on free television. Then they inked a deal with Fox Sports West 2, which was carried by all the main TV providers.

In 2014, Time Warner Cable presented the Guggenheim ownership an offer of $8.3 billion for 25 years and the formation of an exclusive Dodgers network. The Dodgers agreed.

But when it came to getting DirecTV and DISH Network to pony up the fees to carry the station, SportsNet LA, they balked. Recent attempts by Time Warner to drop the fee have been rejected. The result is what Dodgers co-owner Stan Kasten calls “a DirecTV blackout.”

Kasten said he’s thought about the impact, and it troubles him.

“There is no question over the long term, it would not be a good thing,” Kasten said. “I understand the process and we reach out in many other ways. But getting the game on all the TVs would be a huge plus.”

Time Warner Cable spokesman Andrew Fegyveresi’s answer was simply to change providers.

“As we have said since Day 1, we want all Dodgers fans to have access to Vin Scully and the Dodgers on SportsNet LA,” he said. “Especially given that it’s Vin’s final season, and with the network available to approximately 90 percent of homes in the Los Angeles television (market), we encourage fans to switch.”

DirecTV officials said they would not comment on the matter.


Ricardo Garcia brought his two sons, 8 and 10, to Dodger Stadium and said without being able to see the games on TV regularly, his kids have to resort to games like MLB Live for PlayStation 4 to learn the players’ names.

Ricky Garcia, his 10-year-old son, likes Clayton Kershaw. But they got tickets for a game when he wasn’t pitching.

Still, the young boy in a Dodgers T-shirt stood by the rail behind home plate before the game started and had his picture taken with several players taking batting practice in the background.

His father said he hoped that memories like that would make up for the Dodgers drought on TV. But he wasn’t sure.

He said he learned about the game watching the Dodgers on TV with his brother and dad and had memories of Piazza, Eric Karros and Shawn Green. He remembered the moments when the electricity of a home run seen live had them cheering together in the living room.

It’s much different now.

“We watch the highlights,” he said. “That’s how we get them on TV.”

Staff writer Tom Hoffarth contributed to this report.

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