KCAL scores Lakers

Local TV broadcast rights worth $140 mil

Young Broadcasting’s KCAL has inked a new seven-year pact for the local TV broadcast rights to the Los Angeles Lakers that is worth an estimated $140 million to the NBA franchise over the life of the deal.

Under the agreement, KCAL will control all production and advertising sales for the 41 out-of-town games per season covered by the contract. KCAL’s previous deal with the team was governed by a complex revenue-sharing formula. The indie outlet has been the local TV home of the Lakers for more than 20 years.

KCAL is shelling out more coin for the Laker broadcast rights than in recent years in exchange for exclusive control of ad sales, sponsorship and promotional tie-ins.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but sources pegged the pricetag for KCAL at about $20 million per season. The agreement begins with the 1998-99 NBA season and extends through 2004-05.

“The Lakers are an important asset for this station and it’s great that we’ll be able to maintain this relationship,” said Don Corsini, veepee and general manager of KCAL.

Team owner Jerry Buss said: “Our partnership with KCAL has been a rewarding one that has offered our fans quality and exciting coverage of Los Angeles Lakers basketball.”

For sure, the Lakers are a cornerstone of KCAL’s news- and sports-driven program sked, but the station still had leverage in the renewal negotiations, thanks to the advent of weblets UPN and the WB.

Now that former indies KCOP and KTLA carry UPN and WB network programming, respectively, in primetime, those stations no longer have the flexibility to carry 40-plus Laker games in the middle of the September-May TV season. Nor do the ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC O&Os in the market.

KCAL, by contrast, promotes the Lakers telecasts as an integral part of the station’s image as a haven for local sports fans, with a pro sports lineup that also includes the local broadcast TV rights to the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, baseball’s Anaheim Angels, and the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings and Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.

KCAL is even planning to try out a few broadcasts this summer of the WNBA, the NBA’s new pro femme league, as it progresses through its second season. Outside of KCAL, Laker home games are telecast locally on the Fox Sports West cabler in a deal that also runs through the 2004-05 season.

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