Lakers Networks Prep for ‘Showtime’

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With four weeks to go before the tipoff of two regional
sports networks focused on the Los Angeles Lakers, Time
Warner Cable Sports is stepping up its marketing game and
engaging in carriage discussions with potential affiliates.

Time Warner Cable SportsNet and Time Warner Cable
Deportes, the nation’s first dedicated RSN for Latinos, are
set to launch on Oct. 1, following the cable operator’s February
2011 acquisition of the National Basketball Association
franchise’s media rights for between $3 billion and $4 billion
over a 20-year span (the allocation evidently expands by another
$1 billion if a five-year option is exercised). The team’s
games had been televised by Fox Sports West and KCAL-TV.

The two RSNs will televise 70 contests of the revamped
Lakers — whose lineup not only includes Kobe Bryant and
Pau Gasol, but perennial all-stars Steve Nash and Dwight
Howard — as well as a host of shoulder programming
around the storied franchise.

“It’s certainly been exciting to be a Lakers fan this summer
from when free agency started around July 4 through
the acquisition of Dwight [from the Orlando Magic],” said
Mark Shuken, senior vice president and general manager of
TWC Sports Regional Networks.

In addition, TWC SportsNet has secured rights to Major
League Soccer’s Galaxy, the WNBA’s Sparks and CIF highschool
football, and last week also scored select Mountain
West Conference football and basketball action.

At press time, TWC SportsNet, which is reportedly asking
$3.95 in monthly subscriber fees for the two networks,
had yet to add any affiliates beyond the nation’s No. 2 cable
operator. Time Warner Cable is the largest distributor
— with about 2 million subscribers in the RSNs’ territory
that extends to “Fresno to the north, Tijuana to the south,
Hawaii to the west and Las Vegas to the east,” Shuken said.
All told, TWC counts about onethird
of the MVPD homes among
the territory’s 6 million total.

“We’re in ongoing conversations
with the seven or eight
potential affiliates, including
DirecTV,” Shuken said.

In the meantime, consumers
are about to get hit with a fullcourt
marketing blitz. After starting in mid-July with social
media activities, TWC SportsNet began using billboards featuring
Bryant on Aug. 13. The outdoor component will feature
six different executions, including other team stars.

Starting today (Sept. 3), though, the push will kick into
a higher gear with TV and radio ads on such high-profile
sports as Los Angeles Dodgers baseball games, National
Football League contests and international soccer matches.
While TWC cross-channel avails and other assets will
be in play, the schedule is “primarily paid media,” Shuken
said. Shuken declined to put a value on the media/marketing
launch campaign but said it was “significantly greater
than for any other RSN.”

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