David Rone, right, exchanges a fist-bump with Dodgers minority owner Magic Johnson during the launch of SportsNet LA in El Segundo in 2011. (Jerod Harris / Getty Images for SportsNet LA)
David Rone, the point person as president of El Segundo-based Time Warner Cable Sports in the launching and distribution of the Lakers-dominant TWC SportsNet, the Dodgers’ SportsNet LA and TWC SportsNet Deportes, is leaving the company at the end of this week.
The news, first reported by Sports Business Daily, comes as SportsNet LA finished its second full season stalled without full distribution since Rone helped get the Dodgers-owned channel up and running prior to the 2013 season. It also comes as the company recently began layoffs and cutbacks in its programming.
Rone’s job will not be filled, according to SBD. Those who work under him, including general manager Mark Shuken, will report to TWC executive vice president and COO Melinda Witmer, based in New York.
Rone arrived at TWC Sports in the summer of 2011. His background included co-leadership of the Creative Artists Agency sports division, executive VP of Fox Sports networks, general manager of Fox College Sports and working in corporate business development at Walt Disney Company.
As president of Time Warner Cable Networks, Rone oversaw all content creation and programming for the company as well as the company’s overall sports strategy. TWC’s interests also include SportsNet New York, the home of the New York Mets.
He immediately faced resistance from cable and dish companies about the launch of TWC SportsNet in Oct., 2012, as the Lakers season began. That channel also had exclusive rights to the MLS Galaxy and WNBA Sparks as well as the state high school championships, taking them from rival Fox Sports West/Prime Ticket.
“If there is subscriber angst, then it will be communicated to those who don’t have a relationship and it drives the dynamic in getting it done,” he said at the time.
The SportsNet LA launch was notably more difficult. Only because of the pending merger of TWC with Charter was SportsNet LA. able to expand its Southern California presence beyond TWC subscribers last June. DirecTV, which recently was bought out by AT&T, remains the largest holdout for the channel, citing high subscriber fees.
Rone explained back in the summer of 2014 why he had “dual emotions” about whether he thought a deal could be consummated with DirecTV and TWC for SportsNet LA distribution as TWC tried to put out more information to correct what it felt was too much misinformation floated around about negotiations.
“I am and have to remain incredibly optimistic for those fans who deserve this content, and be optimistic for them that this situation gets solved,” he said then. “But at the same time, from my business experience, and from colleagues who say to us when a distributor behaves in the manner that DirecTV is behaving, that’s an indicator that we have to be pessimistic about whether they change their tune and engage with us.”
A TWC Sports spokesman said Rone has “accomplished what he set out to do here, including successfully launching three RSNs. He feels that with this success, the pending acquisition and a strong bench of talented employees who have worked for him, it would be a good time to start exploring other opportunities. He has agreed to consult with us until at least the end of the year.”