October 25, 2012
The first regular season Los Angeles Lakers game scheduled to air on Time Warner Cable's new SportsNet channel is just a week away and the cable company still does not have any distribution deals with other pay-TV providers in the region.
If Time Warner Cable doesn't get deals done soon, millions of Lakers fans will be missing a lot of basketball.
On Wednesday, Cox Cable, which has 1.2 million subscribers in Southern California, primarily in Orange County and San Diego, said its offer to carry SportsNet and Time Warner Cable's Spanish-language sports channel Deportes on a specialty tier along with other sports channels was rebuffed.
"We are committed to meeting the needs of all Cox customers, not just sports fans," Cox said in a statement, adding that "the price for the Lakers is one of the highest wholesale prices that we have seen."
Time Warner Cable is seeking as much as $3.95 per-month, per-subscriber for the two channels. The two channels launched Oct. 1. Besides the Lakers, SportsNet and Deportes also carry the Los Angeles Galaxy soccer team. Time Warner Cable is also expected to pursue rights to the Dodgers, whose contract with Fox's Prime Ticket regional sports channel expires after next season.
"I think it is extremely expensive for basically a one-team channel," said Dave Bialis, senior vice president of Cox's California operations.
Although Cox offered to make the two channels available on an a la carte basis, Time Warner Cable has consistently said that it wants the channels available to as many homes as possible and not sold separately.
"We'd like to see flexibility in the offering and allow our customers to have more say," Bialis said.
A Time Warner Cable spokesman did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
For Time Warner Cable, the channels are a big bet. The company acquired the rights to the Lakers in a $3-billion, 20-year deal. Previously, the Lakers had been carried primarily by Fox Sports West, which is another regional sports network owned by Fox.
Besides Cox, the other major distributors that Time Warner Cable needs to have on board include satellite broadcasters DirecTV and Dish Network.
SportsNet and Deportes will carry 53 of the Lakers' 82 games. The rest are national games that will be telecast by ESPN, TNT and ABC. - Joe Flint, Los Angeles Times
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