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LA Dodgers: A good team that can be hard to watch

Dodgers pitcher Josh Beckett threw a no-hitter in Philadelphia on Sunday, the first for the team in nearly 20 years.

Then on Monday, Hyun-Jin Ryu nearly repeated the feat. Had he succeeded, it would have been the first time a major league baseball team threw two no-hitters in a row.

Dodgers fans at both games were elated. Dodgers fans at home were furious.


Pitcher Josh Beckett of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates after recording a no hitter during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on May 25, 2014 in Philadelphia.
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Pitcher Josh Beckett of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates after recording a no hitter during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on May 25, 2014 in Philadelphia.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have won three of their last four games and are on a roll. But you have to be there. No, really, you have to be there. Two months into the 2014 season, 70 percent of televisions in Southern California can't tune into games. That's because the new team channel, SportsNet LA, is still carried only by Time Warner Cable, which launched the channel after it paid the team a reported $8.35 billion for rights to Dodgers games for the next quarter century.

No other carrier has come to terms with TWC to carry the channel—not Comcast (CNBC's parent company, which is now seeking to buy Time Warner Cable), nor Cox Communications, Charter Communications, DISH Network, DirecTV, AT&T or Verizon Communcations.

"Thanx TWC for having everyone else miss out on the no hitter it's not like it happens every day a-------," tweeted @losdoyers. "There it is! The least-watched no-hitter in the modern era!" added @conwayshow.

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The Dodgers currently have the highest attendance in baseball, averaging more than 46,000 fans per game, but TV ratings are down. More fans go to the games than watch them on TV. ESPN reports that "an average of just 43,000 households are watching their games on TWC, according to Nielsen ratings, a drop of nearly 72 percent from last season, when games were carried by a Fox-owned station."

"We are eager for all consumers in the Dodger footprint to have access to SportsNet LA and we hope that providers will come on board soon," Time Warner Cable said in a statement to CNBC. "We will continue to work tirelessly to make that happen."

The cable company pointed out that fans can also access games by subscribing to Bright House Networks or Champion Broadband.

Assurances from team back in March

Back in March before opening day, Dodgers CEO Stan Kasten told CNBC that he wasn't worried about a delay in getting SportsNet LA on other carriers.

"Historically, these deals get done much closer to opening day, sometimes a little before, sometimes a little after," he said, "but the history, the overwhelming history, in city after city after city, is that these deals get done, because everyone has the same interest."

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Clearly those interests are not yet aligned, and it appears the greatest gulf is between TWC and DirecTV. The satellite TV operator recently raised its regional sports fee to local customers, even though it is not yet carrying the Dodgers channel.

"DirecTV has shown no sense of urgency in getting a deal done," said Time Warner Cable. "SportsNet LA is available on fair terms consistent with its value."

The cable company's chief video and content officer recently told the Los Angeles Times that the terms TWC is offering are less than what Time Warner Cable pays for the YES Network, a Fox-owned property that carries the Yankees in New York.

What it all means for the Clippers

In the meantime, fans are caught in the middle, and the whole saga could provide a cautionary tale for potential buyers of another sports franchise in the news lately: the Los Angeles Clippers.

Donald Sterling claims he's received offers "in excess of $2.5 billion" for the team, which would be more than the $2.15 billion the Dodgers sold for. One reason current Dodgers owners the Guggenheim Group paid so much for the team was to make money on a television channel, and now the LA Times reports that Guggenheim may also bid for the Clippers.

That raises a question about how much sports television Los Angeles can support: If launching a channel for a legendary team like the Dodgers is so difficult, and there's already a specific channel for the Lakers, would carriers balk at a third channel for the Clippers?

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"Everybody wants high-quality entertainment, high-quality product," Kasten said in March when discussing the new Dodgers channel. "At the end of the day, there's almost always a way to get this done."

Dodgers fans just hope the end of the day is before the end of the season. "If a guy throws a #nohitter and 70% of his teams' fans weren't able to watch it on TV, did it really happen?" tweeted @OrangePuck.

You had to be there.

—By CNBC's Jane Wells.

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