They rolled in. At a pace that mortals should not be able...
The Lakers Are Being Held Hostage
On the first of this month, Time Warner Cable Sportsnet rolled out the red carpet for their two infant sports cable networks. Both will carry the same content, one in English and one in Spanish.
In a glitzy and glamorous presentation only reserved for the likes of Tinseltown, big names like Kobe Bryant, David Beckham, Dwight Howard, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Pau Gasol and Landon Donovan were all present for the epic kick-off.
But what were they celebrating? These new networks claim to be able to take both the Lakers and the Los Angeles Galaxy MLS soccer franchise to the next level – but at the network’s outset, they seem creating a bottleneck for several fans.
Time Warner has paid a sum of 3 billion dollars over the next 20 years to carry the Lakers and the Galaxy. That’s all fine and dandy, but the problem is Time Warner Sportsnet is only currently offered to Time Warner Cable subscribers.
Just 35% (1.7 million of 4.8 million) of television customers in the greater Los Angeles area are Time Warner Cable subscribers. And even that minority percentage drops significantly when you factor in surrounding areas (like San Luis Obispo County) that don’t even have a Time Warner option. This is a striking punch in the gut to a region that could tune into Fox Sports West or KCAL9 before the takeover, and catch every single one of the Lakers’ non-nationally televised games. Herein lies a major problem between Time Warner and everyone else.
Direct TV, Dish Network, Charter Communications and Cox Cable are all currently at the bargaining table. Time Warner obviously holds all the cards in the market. The Lakers are the equivalent of gold bullion in the Southern California region.
Anything and everything as far as programming in the Southern California region stems and moves through the Lakers broadcast. Go ask KCAL9. Their newscasts prior to and following Lakers road broadcasts were essential in making them Los Angeles’ news leader. And now that the Lakers are gone, their ratings won’t even be in the same ballpark as before.
So what does this chaos and disarray mean to Lakerfans like you and I? Let’s start at $3.95 more a month on top of your current provider subscription. This is what Time Warner is currently proposing to all the other outlets. That would make Time Warner Sportsnet the second most expensive regional sports network in the nation behind Comcast SportsNet Washington, which charges $4.02 more than the base charge, per subscriber, per month.
Directv said in a statement that it is “very engaged” in talks to carry the channels, but said it has a responsibility to its customers to “avoid any extraordinary increases” in their monthly bills. Ugh. Sounds like a stalemate and we are all already tired of lockouts, aren’t we?
And the worst part? This Laker team is the story this upcoming NBA season. The overall talent the Lakers have acquired in the off-season is arguably the best collection on paper that has been assembled in Lakerland since The Showtime Era of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Byron Scott and Michael Cooper. Only being able to watch this team when they are on national television will be beyond a frustrating process for Lakerfans to say the least.
So what does the dilemma all come down to? Money, of course, just like it always does. I just hope Time Warner understands that yes, there is a lot of money to be made, but if you don’t settle on a reasonable deal soon, there is also a lot of money to be lost. And as of right now, if things stand as they are once the regular season kicks off, there is no answer for non-Time Warner Lakerfans to turn to.
If you think the couch burning after championships was bad, imagine what will start to burn if the majority of Southland fans can’t see their Lakers? I’m already starting to stock up on lighter fluid like Mayan Calendar 2012 conspiracy theorists are hoarding canned goods.
Make me put down my lighter, Time Warner.