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Showtime: TWC inks Lakers' regional sports network rights

Tue, 02/15/2011 - 7:15am
Mike Robuck

Time Warner Cable and the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers announced late yesterday afternoon that they had struck a 20-year agreement that included the rights to distribute all locally available pre-season, regular season and post-season Lakers games, beginning with the 2012-2013 season.

As part of the deal, Time Warner Cable will launch two regional sports networks (RSNs) in HD, including the nation's first Spanish-language regional sports network, with new state-of-the-art facilities in Los Angeles.

The unnamed regional sports networks will be available to all satellite, cable and telco distributors in the Lakers' territory, which includes all of Southern California, Nevada and Hawaii.

The regional sports networks will be a focal point for all things related to the Lakers, including locally televised home and away games and a variety of new and original Lakers' content featuring behind-the-scenes, personality and classic programming.

The Spanish-language channel will be a standalone RSN with its own dedicated production of game telecasts and other content tailored to Spanish-speaking Lakers fans – not a SAP feed. Video service providers typically charge extra for the regional sports networks that they carry.

Coverage includes pre- and post-game shows produced separately in both English and Spanish, as well as new online and on-demand multi-platform content featuring the Lakers.

Financial terms of the deal weren't available.

"This long-term agreement represents a huge win for all Lakers fans, providing destination channels, more content and more platforms for the Lakers, one of the premier brands in professional sports today," said Time Warner Cable CEO and Chairman Glenn Britt. "It 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.

"We'll be able to fully leverage our experience in local and regional programming; we have been at the forefront of the industry with 24-hour regional news and 24-hour regional news in Spanish, and now we're breaking ground with the nation's first Spanish-language regional sports network, something that's tailor-made for Southern California."

Time Warner Cable's deal with the Lakers represented a setback for Fox Sports West and CBS-owned KCAL-TV Los Angeles, which currently hold the rights to Lakers games.

Once the deal with KCAL expires, Lakers games will no longer be available for free over the air in Los Angeles.

Fox Sports said that it had made the Lakers an offer that "would have paid them one of the highest local TV rights fees in professional sports. We did not believe that going higher was in the best interest of our business or pay-TV customers in Los Angeles, who will bear the cost of this deal for years to come."

Regional sports networks have been a boon to Comcast and Cablevision's bottom lines, but Time Warner Cable is new to the game. Time Warner Cable will have to strike carriage deals with competitors such as DirecTV and cable operators, including Cox Communications and Charter Communications.

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