February 15, 2011
The New York Knicks and New York Rangers have their MSG Network. The New York Yankees and the, uh, New Jersey Nets have YES. And now it looks as if the Los Angeles Lakers will have their own channel, starting with the 2012-13 season -- two of their own channels, actually, one featuring an independently run Spanish-language broadcast.
The loss of games to KCAL means that no Lakers games will be available on free over-the-air television. KCAL, which is owned by CBS Corp., currently carries 41 games. Of the 5.67 million TV homes in the Los Angeles market, about 620,000 do not subscribe to any pay-TV provider.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Under their current deal with Fox Sports West, the Lakers were getting about $30 million a year in rights fees, people familiar with the situation said. Some industry observers pegged the 20-year pact at a value of $3 billion, a figure dismissed by Time Warner Cable.
Yikes. And Sports by Brooks takes it even further:
Though [the L.A. Times' Joe] Flint also reported that Time Warner officials "dismissed" the $3 billion figure, I've been told by multiple sources with knowledge of the negotiations today that that number is accurate, with one source noting to me that the reported $3 billion number "may actually be conservative."
Whoa, Jerry (Buss). Then Yahoo!'s Adrian Wojnarowski dropped this tweet:
One billion. Not bad for a little family-run organization.
This deal allows the Buss family to work its way through the impending inheritance tax, and keep the Lakers in the hands of Buss after Dr. Jerry Buss' passing. And if you think I'm a bit callous for bringing that up, understand that such a tax was tops in Buss' mind as he shopped his team's TV rights around two years ago, telling Los Angeles Magazine (via Sports by Brooks) that the tax was "a severe economic issue for me. It's an ongoing one, and I'm addressing it as best I can. I'm prepaying the taxes, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I live long enough to accomplish the whole thing."
What follows could be another rate-hike war like we saw in the greater NYC area with the Yes Network, as most of the cable and satellite TV companies could make Laker fans sweat before they add the two new Laker channels to their roster. League Pass subscribers needn't worry, as the other team's broadcasting feed can be used instead, and the Lakers have never had a shortage of nationally televised games.
But the local fans, unfortunately, could feel the sting to start. Both in increased rates for their TV provider, or the worry that they could lose out on watching Laker games for a part of 2012-13, as the rate increase is negotiated. And that's not even taking into account the percentage of the 600,000 households in Los Angeles that are Laker fans and who will be left out when the champs go off the rabbit ears for good.
For the Buss family, though? This is the ultimate sell-high moment. The two-time defending champs will lose Phil Jackson after this season, Kobe Bryant(notes) is just a step or two beyond his peak, and Pau Gasol(notes) and Lamar Odom(notes) are at their career best right now. By 2012-13, unless the team finds itself another franchise-changing talent, the Lakers won't be the guaranteed boffo success they are right now. Still a compelling watch, no doubt, but not a shoo-in to go three playoff rounds.
Good timing once again, Dr. Jerry.