DirecTV Near Deal to Carry L.A. Lakers Games

NBA Los Angeles Lakers Action Shot - H 2011
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NBA Los Angeles Lakers Action Shot - H 2011

After weeks of intense negotiations, an agreement by the nation’s largest satellite service to carry Time Warner’s sports channels is expected Thursday.

DirecTV is expected to announce as soon as Thursday that it has reached an agreement with Time Warner Cable to carry the two new sports networks that air Los Angeles Lakers basketball games.

There is no official announcement, but after weeks of intense negotiations, sources say the satellite TV giant soon will be carrying the English-language Sportsnet and the Spanish-language Deportes network. The carriage is expected to cover about 1.3 million DirecTV subscribers living in the area from Fresno, Calif., to the Mexican border as well as those in Las Vegas and Hawaii.

DirecTV now joins Cox, Charter and others who have agreed to carry the channels, which premiered at first only on Time Warner Cable. TWC paid $3 billion for the TV rights to the Lakers games for the next 20 years.

DirecTV is known for its sports programming, so it was a natural to add the new channels. The problem was the price and terms. TWC has demanded that the two channels be carried on the most basic tier of service, which enhances their ability to sell advertising on the services. The cable company has been asking $3.95 per subscriber per month for the regional sports channels.

Although DirecTV has about 12 million subscribers nationwide, it was able to make a deal that covers only those in what is considered Laker territory. Even with that, DirecTV Michael White had complained publicly that he was being asked to carry those channels when many of his service's subscribers -- who are not sports fans -  will not watch them.

Apparently that has been worked out. DirecTV declined comment.

The DirecTV deal leaves only subscribers to Comcast in Southern California and those with Dish Network still without access to Lakers games. Analysts have said it is doubtful that Dish ever will carry the channels on the terms demanded by TWC because of the cost. Both sides, however, have said this week negotiations continue.