It’s less than a week away from the launch of both Time Warner Cable SportsNet channels, with the Lakers as the top-dog tennents and the Galaxy and Sparks tagging along for the full-content ride.
But when Oct. 1 arrives, and the switch is flipped at 7 p.m., who’ll be watching?
Customers of Time Warner Cable can get it. That’s a nice chunk of viewers. But to date, that’s it.
TWC SportsNet senior VP and general manager Mark Shuken said today — ironically, as he was getting the cable hooked up to the two flat-screen monitors in his office — that when people ask him about where they can find the channels on systems such as DirecTV, Dish, Comcast, Charter, U-verse or FiOS, his response remains:
“We’re negotiating with all the cable and satellite providers with whom we intend to share the services with. Those are ongoing, they’re current, and they’re productive. This timeline and the choreography is consistent with the rest of the industry. With the Oct. 1 launch, this week is really an active one in that category. We intend to have agreements with every one of them.”
That could mean that announcements don’t come until Monday’s delivery date. It could also mean that others don’t come aboard until the first Lakers’ exhibition game on Oct. 7. The last holdouts could push it all the way to the first Lakers’ regular-season game on Oct. 30.
Again, without the channels, both in English and Spanish, there’s no Laker coverage unless they’re on TNT or ESPN/ABC.
Shuken continued about the negotiation process that almost always takes place in the media in some way, shape or form as the talks strech out and event coverage is missed: “We hear from customers what they want, what product they want to receive, and I think we would be nave to think they get into the nuances of this business. They see it as two entities that need to negotiate and get to a resolution for them. And frankly, the good news those entities are almost always in that process for that very reason.
“I think one thing we find about consumers in that context are that we as content providers need them to share what they want. And to tell distributors what they want.”
One other thing in Shuken’s favor: He’s a former DirecTV Sports Network president and CEO, responsible for the company’s regional sports networks. He knows his new service is what DirecTV will want, no matter how that company postures in its refusal so far to add the Pac-12 Networks.
“I have terrific respect for the people at DirecTV and happily for us, the DirecTV strategy is absolutely consistent with the philosophy of the networks we’re bringing — they articulate that sports is a primary driver for them, they articulate the unique experience in live sports is a driver for them, and they articulate the the Hispanic community is a core customer for them. We’re encouraged by that and by the discussions we’ve had with them. …
“It would be hard for me to imagine DirecTV and its customers, with the drivers that they articulate, not to carry these networks. And frankly we will work with them to celebrate that fact. That’s incumbent upon a partnership.”
Photo by Time Warner Cable Sports
Time Warner Cable SportsNet GM Mark Shuken, second from right, is with the company’s coordinating producer Jared Stacy, president David Rone and Lakers executive VP of business Jeanie Buss at the Dwight Howard signing press conference on Aug. 10.