According to the Los Angeles Times, Time Warner Cable Inc. has struck deals with cable TV providers Charter Communications and Verizon Fios, along with AT&T U-Verse and that company’s 450,000 subscribers in the area, to carry Time Warner’s new SportsNet and Deportes channels, which will broadcast many of the Los Angeles Lakers’ regular season games this year. Time Warner still has not reached agreement with DIRECTV, DISH Network or Cox Cable, leaving many Los Angeles area viewers without Lakers game as the season quickly approaches.
The season begins Wednesday with a game against the Portland Trail Blazers, and Time Warner is scrambling to get deals in place with the other companies in the area before tipoff. Lakers fans with Cox, DISH and DIRECTV, which combined have more than 3 million subscribers in the area, are worried they may not get to see their favorite team, with new stars Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, because both companies are playing hardball with Time Warner. DIRECTV and Cox have both agreed to carry the new Time Warner sports channels on a specialty tier, which customers would have to pay extra to receive, and that’s a non-starter for Time Warner, who struck a $3 billion, 20 year rights deal for the Lakers and need the games in as many homes as possible to maximize subscription fee revenue and advertising revenue.
Typically, these disagreements between programmers and distributors go down to the wire, and then a resolution is reached. Before the weekend, when the agreements with Charter and Verizon were reached, many more fans were waiting in the balance. But three million or so are still waiting to see if they’ll get to see the games they got to see last year on Fox Sports, Prime Ticket and KCAL 9. They’ll know this Wednesday.