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Cable Operators

Time Warner Cable’s Sports Plans Take Shape

5/14/2012 12:01 AM Eastern

Time Warner Cable’s foray into the Los Angeles
sports scene will officially begin on Oct. 1 as the cable
company begins to fill in the details on its two regional
sports networks built around the Lakers.

The largest MSO in Los Angeles will bow Time Warner
Cable SportsNet and Spanish-language RSN Time Warner
Cable Deportes, which will have its own production
team and programming sensibilities, shortly before the
National Basketball Association begins its 2012-13 season,
Time Warner Cable Sports president David Rone told
Multichannel News last week.

The foundation for the services was established in February
2011, when the cable firm secured local rights to the
Lakers for a 20-year period in a deal that is reportedly valued
at $3 billion.

The team’s games have until now been televised by Fox
Sports West and KCAL-TV.

After landing the Lakers, Time Warner Cable Sports
gained rights to the defending Major League Soccer champion
Los Angeles Galaxy and the Los Angeles Sparks of the
Women’s National Basketball Association.

BIG TWC MARKET

The second-biggest U.S. cable company counts some
2 million customers in the RSNs’ territory, extending from
“Fresno to the north, the Mexican border to the south, east
to Palm Springs and Las Vegas, and Hawaii to the west,”
Rone said.

All told, those areas encompass
some 6 million
TV homes.
Rone and Mark Shuken,
the senior vice president
and general manager of the
two RSNs, and Dan Finnerty,
the senior vice president
of Time Warner Cable
Sports and head of affiliate
sales, recently began holding
meetings with potential
distributors. “We have
not had many of them; they
literally began last week.

“In between now and the
NCTA Cable Show [which
starts May 21 in Boston],
we will have gotten in front
of all of the MVPDs that we need to speak to,” he said. “I’m
stressing MVPDs because we’re speaking to MSOs, satellite
companies and telcos.”

Rone would not discuss pricing. Published reports have
placed the ask at $3.50 per subscriber for the pair of networks.

ISI Group analyst Vijay Jayant pegs the price at $2.50 per
month per subscriber.

Rone, whose career has included stops at Fox Sports,
Creative Artists Agency and Evolution Media Capital, said
Time Warner Cable Sports’ distribution game plan calls for
equal footing for the services.

“The offering is both networks together for a simultaneous
launch, equal distribution penetration, one
price. So there is no decoupling opportunity for the
MVPDs,” he said.

“We share with the [MVPDs] the premium foundational
content that we have, which is the Lakers and the
Galaxy and the Sparks. We’re creating this first-ever tailored
product for the Hispanic marketplace here in California.
Marrying those two things together, there is no
better match because the makeup of southern California
is so rich in the Latino community and the fact that
we’re creating a tailored offering specifically for them.

“We hope that’s going to resonate.”

STAFFING UP

With 35 staffers currently on board, Time Warner Cable
Sports is in the process of hiring and expects to
have some 120 in the RSNs’ crew by the end of August.

Rone said production is underway for ancillary
programming tied to the Galaxy and Sparks: The teams’
games have been sublicensed to L.A.-area TV stations for
this season prior to the RSNs’ launch.

Consumer marketing, though, has not yet commenced
because Time Warner Cable Sports doesn’t officially acquire
the Lakers rights until after the club finishes its 2011-
12 NBA season. Given the lockout, the last possible date for
the 2012 Finals is June 26.

“From your lips to God’s ears,” Rone said of the prospects
of the Lakers possibly winning their 17th NBA title
ahead of the networks’ debut.

September