LA Lakers: New Lakers Media Deal Holding Viewers Hostage, Unable to Watch Games

William Van NollFeatured ColumnistSeptember 3, 2012

EL SEGUNDO, CA - DECEMBER 11:  Kobe Bryant #24 laughs during Los Angeles Lakers Media Day at Toyota Sports Center on December 11, 2011 in El Segundo, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Owners of Lakers' broadcasting rights over the next 20 years, Time Warner Cable has yet to ink distribution deals with other cable/satellite providers for Lakers content, meaning the majority of fans will be without Lakers basketball come October.

Time Warner Cable is set to launch two regional sports networks October 1st—Time Warner Cable SportsNet and Spanish-language network Time Warner Cable Deportes.

The biggest draw for Time Warner's newest offerings will overwhelmingly be the exclusive broadcasting rights of Lakers games and original team content under the famed $4 billion, 20-year deal struck with the Buss Family in February 2011.

The two sports networks will also offer exclusive Los Angeles Galaxy, Los Angeles Sparks and high school sports content.

Pointed out by the OC Register's Kevin Ding last week, anyone with DirectTV, Dish Network, AT&T U-Verse, Verizon FIOS, Cox Cable or any other non-Time Warner cable provider will be unable to watch Lakers games if Time Warner cannot enter into agreements with these distributors soon.

Given the gravity of the situation and a fast-approaching regular season, this broadcasting lockup hasn't been getting the sort of attention it rightly deserves. A resolution needs to come—and fast.

Rather than solely pay the high prices to carry ESPN, Fox Sports or other premium-priced sports programming, Time Warner is getting in the game and becoming a heavyweight sports content owner of its own.

By all accounts, Time Warner is striking a hard bargain with cable and satellite companies everywhere—reason to believe no major provider has agreed to carry TWC SportsNet yet.

And for good reason: Time Warner is on the hook and must pay $4 billion to the Lakers over the next 20 years.

But if Time Warner can't play nice and decides to go nuclear with DirectTV, Dish Network and the rest, Lakers fans will become the ultimate casualties, as they'll be unable to watch Kobe, D12, Steve Nash and the new look Lakers take the floor when the first TWC SportsNet game airs October 31.

A spooky Halloween, indeed.

Time Warner is expecting droves of dedicated Lakers fans to demand their own cable or satellite providers carry the TWC Sports and Deportes networks, creating the aptly titled as a resource for fans to get updates on the dispute and to access their own television providers.

But to date, cable and satellite providers have yet to blink. As it stands, Time Warner will be the only source to watch your Lakers next year.

Didn't we already endure a league-wide lockout last year?

Now, Lakers fans are facing a thermonuclear media lockout to start the 2012-13 season.

The business of basketball is just that—business. Somebody has to pay, and if the cable/satellite providers don't, the fans most certainly will.