Them’s fightin’ words: TWC defends its position

Time Warner Cable defended its price point and basic-cable strategy of its SportsNet and Deportes channels on Wednesday night after distributors Cox Cable and DirecTV released statements protesting both issues.

Cox Cable, with about 1 million customers in Orange County, San Diego, Las Vegas and the Palos Verdes peninsula, said the reported $3.95 per subscriber per month rate is “one of the highest wholesale prices that we have seen. . . . it is extremely expensive for basically a one-team channel.”

El Segundo-based DirecTV, second to Time Warner in Southern California distribution, said similar reasons are why a deal has not been struck yet as the Lakers’ first regular season game on the channels is set for Oct. 31.

There are 6 million customers in the Lakers’ TV territory that goes north to Fresno, south to the Mexican border, west to Hawaii and east to Las Vegas.

A TWC statement sent out Wednesday night by spokesperson Amy Summers from their El Segundo offices said that “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.

“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. 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.”

Another example: the Fox Sports San Diego channel, which launched last spring as the home of the San Diego Padres, has been selling for $5 per subscriber. Time Warner Cable is one of several companies that have balked at the price and not picked it up; DirecTV and Cox has it on their systems.

TWC SportsNet and Deportes, in addition to having 72 Lakers games this season (53 of which will be exclusive), also carries games of the MLS Galaxy and WNBA Sparks, and could soon have the Dodgers under contract if it does not renew its deal with Prime Ticket.

Earlier Wednesday, former Lakers great and Dodgers co-owner Magic Johnson laughed when asked if he feels he’s been put into a position of talking Lakers’ fans off the ledge over the latest frustrations cause by the lack of TWC SportsNet and Deportes distribution.

“It’s out of my control,” said Johnson, who also will work this season as an NBA studio analyst for ESPN and ABC, “but all L.A. fans are hoping Time Warner makes the deals with the others. That’s what it comes down to. I believe they’re working on it for all the fans.

“I hope it happens soon because the hype for this team and the anticipation is so off the charts – I think even moreso than when we played (in the 1980s). It’s just so incredible to bring this collection of All Stars together.

“Hopefully, they’ll make a deal and Laker fans will be able to see it all.”

Later in a conference call with reporters,Johnson said was asked if he was more impressed with the Lakers’ performance on the court or with their TWC $3.6 billion, 20-year TV deal off the court.

“With the Lakers, and I would hope any team, it starts with on the court,” he said, “and I think that the Lakers are about winning championships. They only have this TV deal because of that. You have to produce on the court.

“All the other stuff really doesn’t matter. You get that because you’re successful on the court. The new Laker deal is great for Time Warner, great for the Lakers, and hopefully it will be great for the fans once they make deals with all these cable providers, and I’m sure they will.”

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