Los Angeles Laker fans have had a rough pre-season. The team's leader Kobe Bryant has been banged up. Newly acquired star Dwight Howard only played in one game. But worst of all, their games have been blacked out due to a cable-industry conflict that has affected viewers from San Diego to Fresno and beyond.
Television viewers will get a chance tonight, however, to see the new-look Lakers take on the high-flying Clippers because the game is being broadcast at 7 p.m. on Prime Ticket.
Sports fans in L.A. have been spoiled with marquee announcers and the Clippers have a legend in Ralph Lawler who has called games for the team for 30 years.
For the exception of a few nationally televised games on ESPN and TNT, Laker fans may have to resort to utilizing one of the five ways people can watch the Laker games as it doesn't seem like Time Warner is close to cutting distribution deals any time soon with DirecTV, AT&T Uverse, Cox, Dish and others.
But as we all know, sometimes magic happens as the clock ticks to zero.
Update: 4:53 p.m.: Cox Cable sent out an email to its customers this afternoon expressing their frustration in the negotiations with Time Warner over the Lakers.
In their message, Cox claims that the Lakers price is very expensive:
The price for the Lakers is one of the highest wholesale prices that we have seen, especially when you consider it on a 'per game' basis: only 53 of the of the Lakers' 82 regular season games will be exclusively available on TWC SportsNet."
Meanwhile Cox complains that Time Warner won't give them the flexibility to only show the Lakers on an optional tier.
We are working through the negotiations process with Time Warner Cable SportsNet and hope we can come to an agreement that does not burden our customers with excessive price increases. We have offered to carry their channels on our optional digital tiers, which would enable those who want to pay for the programming to have it. That offer has been refused.
In a frequently asked questions segment, Cox explains a misconception about how sports on cable tv works:
Doesn't Cox get paid for offering programming? No. There is a misconception that programmers pay cable companies like Cox to distribute their networks and content. In fact, Cox and all video providers are required to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to TV networks for the rights to distribute their programming. When the wholesale cost of television programming increases, it drives up your (retail) cable bill. In particular, sports programming is the most expensive of all programming. Cox and all programming distributors negotiate fiercely to ensure that our customers' retail prices don't increase by millions of dollars.
In explaining why all of this costs so much, Cox throws Alex Rodriguez under the bus:
Why is sports programming so expensive? If you "follow the money," it goes like this: 1. Professional teams are paying incredibly large sums of money to sign the best players possible (e.g., The New York Yankees pay Alex Rodriguez $27.5 million per year for 10 years); 2. Television programmers help fund those salaries by buying TV rights to the team's games; 3. Television programmers raise the wholesale cost of this programming for television distributors to distribute those sports programs to their customers; 4. Cox absorbs as much of these cost increases as possible, but inevitably the customer has to pay more through retail price increases on their cable television bill, which is why we work hard to negotiate the best price possible for our customers.