In a move that will affect millions in Southern California, almost all Los Angeles Lakers games will be on pay TV starting with the 2012-13 season. Time Warner Cable is launching a regional sports network that will carry all the team's games, except for a handful that are broadcast nationally.
Most of those are on cable networks TNT or ESPN, which leaves a handful on ABC as the only ones carried on free TV. Currently, most Lakers road games are carried on CBS-owned station KCAL.
Home games are on regional cable outlet Fox Sports West. Under a 20-year deal, TWC's RSN will have both packages. The deal will include some playoff games.
TWC is launching a separate RSN in Spanish to carry the Lakers games over the same time period. TWC said that network is the country's first RSN in the language.
TWC will have no trouble negotiating with itself to get carriage of the two networks in much of Southern California, where it has customers -- and in Hawaii, a Lakers stronghold where it operates. It will have to cut deals with satellite and telco TV operators in those markets, as well as with all operators in Nevada.
The RSNs will feature an array of wraparound programming, such as news and magazine shows related to the teams. It will be intriguing whether TWC also invests to acquire rights to one of Southern California's baseball teams to fill time on the networks during the summer. But after TWC pulled the Lakers games away from it, News Corp. probably can't afford that. Or one of its RSNs in Southern California may struggle to stay in business.
Glenn Britt, TWC CEO, stated that the deal "allows us to secure great 'must-have' content for our customers in an advantageous arrangement that affords us greater control over our own economic destiny for decades to come."
TWC operates 24-hour local news channels in multiple markets, such as in New York and North Carolina. It is a part owner of SportsNet New York, an RSN that carries New York Mets games, and some other smaller-market sports networks.