Lakers Set For Debut on Time Warner Cable Networks

Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant Dwight Howard - P 2012
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Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant Dwight Howard - P 2012

Wednesday’s contest is the first regular season game only available on TWC’s SportsNet and Deportes in Southern California - talks remain stalled with DirecTV, Cox, Comcast and Dish.

The Los Angeles Lakers play their second regular season game Wednesday against the Portland Trailblazers -- but Southern California viewers of Dish Network, Cox, Comcast or DirecTV won't be watching at home. It's the first game only available via the new Time Warner Cable English and Spanish language sports channels, SportsNet and Deportes.

According to a spokesperson for TWC, talks are on-going with each of the non-signed carriers.

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Dish, with about 850,000 subscribers in Southern California, is considered the least likely to make a deal because of the high price – a reported $3.95 per subscriber per month for the two networks – that TWC is asking. On Wednesday, a  spokesman said “DISH is currently talking with Time Warner Cable SportsNet, but we will only be able to come to an agreement if the programming is offered at a good value for our customers.”

TWC did close deals late last week with Charter, Verizon Fios and AT&T U-verse, which all planned to launch the channels Wednesday with the Portland game. TWC had also previously signed a deal with Bright House Networks.

DirecTV, which is known for sports and has more than 1 million subscribers in Southern California, would by all accounts like to sign a deal -- but price is a big issue. DirecTV can do a deal where only the approximately 1.3 million subscribers in Southern California receive the TWC sports channels, but the two sides remain apart on price. 

The two TWC services will each carry 70 Lakers games (of which 57 are exclusive - not also on TNT, ABC or ESPN). TWC’s channels also offer games from the Los Angles Galaxy soccer team, the Los Angeles Sparks basketball team and others.

The Wednesday game from Portland is also being carried on NBA TV, a joint venture of the NBA and Turner Broadcasting; but a spokesperson for TWC says that will be blacked out on their systems and others in SoCal.

On Tuesday night, Turner’s TNT carried the Lakers' first regular season game, a loss to the Dallas Mavericks, from Los Angeles. That meant it was widely available as TNT is on most cable and satellite systems on the basic tier. The Turner spokesman said it was the top rated programming on cable TV for the evening.

TNT offered a double header Tuesday night with a second game featuring the Boston Celtics against the Miami Heat. That game drew a 3.4 average household rating, based on fast nationals, according to a spokesman for Turner Broadcasting. The Lakers game, which was on first, drew only an average total household rating of 2.9. 

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According to Turner, the two games drew more male viewers from 18 to 34 years of age, and 18 to 49, than anything else on TV during primetime Tuesday evening. However, the spokesman could not supply specific demo numbers.

In both cases, the TNT ratings were depressed by super storm Sandy, which caused about 20 percent of viewing to go uncounted, especially in the large East Coast markets of New York City, Boston and Philadelphia, many of whom remained without power from the storm.

NBA TV is available on most cable and satellite systems, including Comcast, Cox, DirecTV and Dish. However, in most cases it is on a more expensive tier. A sticking point in TWC's talks with carriers has been for its two sports networks to be carried on the most basic level of service. That helps TWC sell ads on the games.