Dual networks still seeking several distribution deals
Time Warner Cable is ready to take it to the hoop — if only on its home court.The company’s Time Warner Cable SportsNet and Time Warner Cable Deportes, with the Los Angeles Lakers as their centerpiece, launch at 7 p.m. Monday. The channels have distribution on Time Warner Cable systems, but negotiations with other providers such as DirecTV are characterized as “ongoing.” The distribution challenge echoes the one faced by the Pacific 12 Networks, which launched in August but are still are without a DirecTV deal more than a month after the start of the 2012-13 Pac-12 sports season. That doesn’t become a crisis point for TWC and Laker fans until after the NBA regular season begins Oct. 30, with the first scheduled TWC Laker broadcast the following night. However, given the popularity of the Lakers and the lesson from the Pac-12 that nothing is automatic, anxiety will rise daily through October — and any delay into November will cause an uproar. Those who do get Time Warner Cable SportsNet at launch Monday will first see a two-hour live special edition of the network’s main studio show “Access SportsNet,” featuring Laker stars Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash as guests, along with soccer legend David Beckham of the Los Angeles Galaxy, another team featured on the network. Together with this, Spanish-language Time Warner Cable Deportes will bow with a two-hour “Bienvenidos a Time Warner Cable Deportes” live special featuring Bryant, Nash and Beckham, as well as Pau Gasol of the Lakers and Landon Donovan of the Galaxy. The first preseason Lakers broadcast is scheduled for Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. against Golden State. This is the first season that no Laker games will be available on over-the-air local broadcast TV. The TWC channels also have exclusive rights to Los Angeles Sparks women’s basketball games and California Interscholastic Federation high school regular season and playoff contests. Turning back to the Pac-12 Networks, all indications are that the conference and DirecTV are at an impasse, with the satellite distributor not wanting to accept a similar deal that Dish, Comcast and Time Warner Cable agreed to. The Pac-12 also lacks distribution on AT&T U-verse, FiOS and Charter.
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more