The media stalemate between Time Warner—exclusive owners of all things Lakers for the next 20 years—and every other cable/satellite provider continues unabated with both sides failing to reach distribution agreements. Sadly, fans should not expect a resolution before the Lakers' first preseason game October 7.
Why won't distribution deals be inked before Lakers games actually begin?
"As for Time Warner getting the distribution deals done, they've advised us from the start that situations like this typically go down to the wire, so it's not something unexpected by us."
This coming from John Black, Lakers VP of Public Relations and head Lakers spokesman (via vcstar.com).
"We have full confidence in [Time Warner] that they will get the distribution done and that eventually, the service they provide to Lakers fans will be the best ever, and worth the growing pains we're going through at this time."
The Lakers-Time Warner media marriage can be compared to the situation that unfolded in New York thirteen years ago. YES Networks—owners of both the New York Yankees' and New Jersey Nets' broadcasting rights—was founded to provide leverage in media rights negotiations and to create original programming surrounding these teams.
YES Networks was met with controversy and dispute from all major carriers at the time for the same reason Time Warner and the Lakers are running into distribution roadblocks: pricing.
In order to get the carriers to play ball, it took a healthy dose of arm twisting. YES Networks resorted to a lengthy blackout of Yankees games before entering into a long-term carriage agreement with Cablevision in 2004. Since the dispute, YES Networks has gone nearly a decade without blacking out any of its cable affiliates.
So when TWC SportsNet and TWC Deportes officially launch October 1, don't expect DirecTV, AT&T or other cable and satellite providers to be at the party.
Time Warner will have the spotlight all to themselves starting next month. In fact, the media hype for the TWC SportsNet launch has already begun.
Lakers.com features a rather clever video intermixing the speeches of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard at their Lakers introductory press conferences, plugging the start to this new era both on the court and in the media room.
The website iwantmylakers.com—a Lakers/Time Warner effort to connect fans with their cable/satellite providers and push for programming deals—currently provides visitors with a slow-motion montage video giving fans a taste of the behind-the-scenes content they will enjoy with TWC SportsNet and TWC Deportes.
And all throughout the network's Twitter feeds @TWCSportsNet and @TWCDeportes is the theme #OneHome, referring to Time Warner's sole ownership of Lakers content as opposed to the CBS(KCAL)-Fox Sports split of years past.
Short aside: The @TWCSportsNet Twitter feed still has a cropped picture of Andrew Bynum in the background. I'm not sure what corporate channels they must go through at Time Warner, but the Twitter design team might want to iron this detail out before they go live October 1.
At the heart of the discussions, like most network-carrier deals, is whether to embed the TWC networks as a package to customers or offer the programming a la carte.
Time Warner is offering both TWC SportsNet and TWC Deportes as a dual package while cable/satellite providers would rather give their customers the option to purchase this programming, which on its face is simply a case of money and who has to pay what.
To get both sides off their perch and lofty positions of power during these negotiations, it will take some pain, like missing the team's preseason games or the first few regular season games.
Even DirecTV's spokesman Robert Mercer recognizes this (via vcstar.com), saying that the two sides have yet to reach an agreement but that they "expect to have an update closer to the start of the NBA season next month."
Brinksmanship is alive and well in these high-stakes negotiations, and unless you currently have Time Warner Cable or purchase NBA League Pass from your cable/satellite provider, don't expect to see the Lakers face the Golden State Warriors in the first scheduled preseason game October 7 from Fresno, CA.
Facing a guaranteed backlash from Lakers fans for these presumed blackouts, the pace of negotiations will surely heat up. The question will become which side—Time Warner or the carriers—can withstand this onslaught and which side will blink first.