Steve Springer, the longtime former Lakers beat writer for the Los Angeles Times who has written several books about the team’s history, notes that there were no local broadcasts of Lakers games in the team’s first season in L.A. in 1961.
It wasn’t until the end of the second round of the playoffs, when owner Bob Short called then USC broadcaster Chick Hearn at 2 a.m. on early morning in March, and asked if he would fly to St. Louis to call Game 5 of the Lakers’ series with the Hawks.
The Lakers had drawn just only 7,802 fans for the two postseason games played at the L.A. Sports Arena before that. After Hearn’s call, they had 14,844 for Game 6 back home.
“Nobody ever questioned the value of a Laker broadcast again,” said Springer.
In light of the latest Time Warner Cable SportsNet and Deportes deal holding up a wider distribution of Lakers games to Southern Californians with the regular season starting a week away, Springer said he couldn’t blame the Lakers for signing the TWC deal, nor could he fault the cable company for paying the rights fees that it did.
“The $120 million a year they are receiving from Time Warner is, with revenue sharing and the luxury tax, the difference between making and losing money. You can’t blame Time Warner for buying control of the hottest team in town. Direct TV and the others are just going to have to negotiate a deal or watch their subscriber list shrink drastically among those who can get TWC.”
Springer, whose most recent Lakers book was co-authoring Jeanie Buss’ autobiography, has a prediction for how this could end:
“Politicians will soon be racing to the nearest camera to be the first to threaten legal action or propose legislation to break this deadlock. Could there be a better or surer way to get votes than by putting the Lakers back in the homes of their constituents?”