3RD UPDATE, 2:40 PM SATURDAY: Time Warner Cable today annouced that AT&T U-verse had signed on in Southern California in time for the L.A. Lakers’ season debut. Starting Tuesday, October 30, AT&T U-verse TV will provide SportsNet and Deportes — the local TV homes for the LA Galaxy and Los Angeles Sparks games as well as the Lakers. TWC SportsNet will be available for U-verse TV customers in Southern California (Los Angeles, San Diego, Bakersfield and much of Fresno) with the U100 package and above on channel 1777 in HD and channel 777 in SD. TWC Deportes will be available in the U300 package or U-Latino package on channel 1778 in HD and channel 778 in SD.
2ND UPDATE, 6:25 PM Friday: Time Warner Cable has confirmed that it has agreed to terms on with Verizon’s FiOS system, with details in the coming days. (UPDATE: It was made official Monday. Time Warner Cable SportsNet will be available on FiOS TV Channel 78 in standard definition and on FiOS TV Channel 578 in high definition. Time Warner Cable Deportes will be available on FiOS TV Channel 79 in standard definition.)
1ST UPDATE, 4:40 PM: Charter Communications has just finalized a deal to carry the two networks in Southern California, with a launch targeted before the Lakers’ first game on the channels October 31. “Charter is committed to bring programming to our customers that mirror their interests,” said Allan Singer, Charter’s SVP Programming. “We are proud of Charter’s robust selection of sports programming. Charter is the first provider of this brand new programming in our service areas, and we know that the addition of these networks especially pleases our customers in Southern California.” No deal terms were announced.
PREVIOUS: 2:59 PM: The tipoff of the NBA’s regular season is a week away. But there’s a pretty good game going on right now between Time Warner Cable‘s just-launched regional sports channels — the new digs of the Los Angeles Lakers — and the cable and satellite companies that have yet to pick them up. That includes pretty much all the Southern California operators, from DirecTV and Dish Network to Verizon FiOS, AT&T U-verse, Charter and Cox Communications. At issue is TWC’s reported asking price of $3.95 per subscriber per month. That’s a steep price for a lineup that just includes the Lakers, Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy and the WNBA’s LA Sparks. The king of per-subscriber sports fees, Disney’s ESPN, commands an average of $5.13 per sub each month, according to SNL Kagan. Among Time Warner Cable’s fellow RSNs, six receive more than $3 — and half of them are from Comcast, including the highest-price one Comcast SportsNet Washington at $4.02.
So far, the networks — Time Warner Cable SportsNet and Spanish-language Time Warner Cable Deportes, which are being shopped as a package — have carriage on only one system: Bright House Networks, which operates in the Bakersfield area. That leaves a majority of fans — ESPN Los Angeles put it at about 4.8 million Angelenos who pay for TV — shut out unless they have Time Warner Cable, which has about 2 million subs in LA. In the past week, DirecTV and Cox have criticized the TWC channels amid ongoing negotiations. They say TWC’s charging too much for networks with one marquee tenant that will show only 53 of the team’s 82 games. Both said they offered to carry the channels on a specialty tier that subs would have to pay for separately, according to the LA Times.
Time Warner Cable, which paid $3 billion last year for Lakers rights for 20 years and launched the channels October 1, says it can’t afford to live on a specialty tier. “Cox and DirecTV know that there is no regional sports network anywhere in the country that is offered on an optional tier — that would be unprecedented,” it said in a statement last night. “Any assertion that we are the highest-priced regional sports outlet in the country is simply untrue; as a significant buyer of regional sports across the country, we know that there are higher priced regional sports networks, including Root Sports that we buy from DirecTV.”
The Lakers are more attractive than ever this year, adding All-Star center Dwight Howard and Hall of Fame-bound point guard Steve Nash to a team that already has Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. So it’s almost certain that a deal will be reached before their first regular-season game on the new networks — on Halloween in Portland, a day after their season-opener at home against Dallas. But it will be interesting if Time Warner Cable gets what it wants. Who knows? Maybe the price will be a steal if TWC bids and acquires local TV rights to the Dodgers. Fox Sports has an exclusive negotiating window for those but its deal ends after next season, when a bidding war likely will begin.