AT&T, Verizon & Charter sign up TWC's Lakers Channel as NBA season tips off

Michelle Clancy | 29-10-2012

Basketball fans in Los Angeles and environs can rest a little easier as the season tips off this week: Time Warner Cable has reached carriage agreements with AT&T U-verse, Charter Communications and Verizon FiOS for its new regional sports networks (RSNs) in Southern California, which have exclusive local broadcast rights to the LA Lakers and other hometown teams.

Both will carry Time Warner SportsNet and Time Warner Cable Deportes, home of the Lakers (who will debut with Steve Nash joining the team—a highly anticipated event for fans nationwide), the LA Galaxy MLS team and the LA Sparks WNBA franchise. TWC acquired the 20-year regional rights to Lakers for $3 billion.

TWC has been looking to sign major distribution deals for the RSNs, which premiered earlier this month, but more work needs to be done for blanket coverage even after these three are added to the roster (Bright House is an existing partner). SoCal subscribers of Comcast, Cox, DirecTV and DISH Network are still Lakers-less for non-national broadcasts.

SportsNet and Deportes will be carrying more than 50 games this season—though an additional 25 games will be available on ABC, ESPN and TNT. The Lakers' opener this week, against Dallas at Staples Center, will be broadcast on TNT, for instance.

Charter, TWC's first operator, and one of the larger carriers in Los Angeles with 300,000 subscribers, will launch the networks by Wednesday, in time for the second Lakers game of the NBA season, against Portland.

Details of the agreements between AT&T, Verizon and TWC will be announced in the coming days, TWC said.

As for DirectTV and Cox (there are more than a million of the latter's customers in the area), they have claimed that TWC is demanding for as much as $4 per customer per month for the carriage. TWC seems unconcerned: "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," it said it a statement.

It added, "If Cox or DirecTV choose not to carry our networks, we and their customers will be very disappointed but we are confident there will be other alternatives for their customers to see this highly-anticipated Lakers season."