News & Analysis
Update: Verizon and Charter announced late Friday night that
they will carry the new Lakers channel; nothing new as of
Saturday at 12:45 p.m. ET on DIRECTV, AT&T, Cox or Dish.
DIRECTV, Cox Fire Back at Lakers Channel
Washington, D.C. (October
26, 2012) --
Time Warner Cable on Wednesday issued a thinly veiled threat
that DIRECTV and Cox could lose subscribers if they don't agree
to carry the new Time Warner Cable-owned Los Angeles Lakers
channel. Well, last night, both Cox and DIRECTV responded,
saying the cable operator is being inflexible and greedy.
With the regular season less than a week away, Time Warner Cable
has only been able to sign up itself and Bright House Networks
to carry the channel, known as SportsNet. The Los Angeles Times
reports that Cox and DIRECTV say they have offered to provide
the channel on a specialty sports tier that would require
subscribers to pay extra to get it.
DIRECTV made a similar proposal to the Pac 12 Network last
month, but was rebuffed and the two sides have yet to come to an
agreement. The Pac 12 Network and SportsNet would prefer to have
the Lakers channel be available on a basic tier that would not
require an additional subscriber fee and, consequently, would be
seen by more viewers. More viewers equals more advertising
But on that point, Cox had some pointed words for Time Warner
Cable, saying the cable operator is demanding too much money to
carry the Lakers in a basic tier.
"We understand that sports programming is very popular, but that
programming comes at an extremely high price," Cox said in a
press release. The cable operator added that all TV providers,
including Time Warner Cable, "share a responsibility to ensure
that both fans and non-fans alike avoid any extraordinary
increases to their families' monthly bills."
Okay, it's getting down to the wire. But contrary to some
reports, that's when these deals normally get done. When
companies start calling each other names, it usually means
they're getting close to a deal.
That may sound crazy -- and, indeed, it is to some degree -- but
it's how these fee fights work. The two sides posture, preen,
politick and pray for an advantage as the days pass and they get
closer to the drop dead date. Then when it's the day before a
big game will be shown, or a new show will debut, the two
companies split the difference and sign a conrtract.
In this case, Time Warner Cable is at a serious disadvantage. It
not only doesn't have Cox and DIRECTV, it doesn't have Dish,
Charter, Verizon or AT&T or any other TV provider that has
subscribers in the LA area. Time Warner Cable doesn't have the
luxury to be inflexible in these negotiations because it needs
to start signing up someone -- anyone!
That's why I still believe DIRECTV will come though prior to the
opening of the Lakers regular season. And when DIRECTV comes
through, a few others will follow suit to maintain their
competitive edge in the Los Angeles market.
For this to happen, Time Warner will likely have to lower its
demands, but it doesn't have much choice at this point. Unless
it can live with DIRECTV offering the channel for a separate
fee, it will have to make it easier (read: cheaper) for the
satcaster to provide it on a basic tier.