When Texas and ESPN announced their $300 Million deal, there were some who wondered how it could be a money maker for both sides. A key part of the strategy for ESPN was to make a distribution deal with Time Warner Cable.
Apparently the cable giant liked the concept of specific Regional Sports Networks, as TWC has just signed a 20-year pact with the L.A. Lakers said to be worth an estimated $150 Million a year.
The deal calls for TWC to create not one, but two L.A. Laker channels -- in English and Spanish. The channels will be operational by the begining of the 2012-13 season. Like the Longhorn channel on ESPN, the Laker networks will offer pregame, postgame, behind-the-scenes, magazine and historical programming. The networks will also offer programming aside from Laker-centric material. TWC will make the networks available to more than just their customers as it will be shopped to all satellite, cable and telco distributors in the Lakers’ media territory, which includes all of Southern California, Nevada and Hawaii.
It is expected that the new Laker Regional Sports Networks will have about 50 live games a season.
The channels will have totally separate crews and announcers and will be broadcast in HD. The deal ends an almost 40-year relationship between the Lakers and local TV station KCAL. The station has carried Laker road games not on an NBA network partner since 1977. FoxSports Net has the contract for the Laker home games not part of the NBA package.
It will be interesting to see what kind of subscription fee deals Time Warner is able to work out with other distributors for both the English and Spanish channels. The dual sales template will also be closely watched for other pro teams in areas of large Hispanic populations. As for other programming, TWC will probably make a run at the rights to the L.A. Dodgers, which are up for bid in the next couple of years.