SBD/November 9, 2012/Media

Still No Deal Between TWC SportsNet, DirecTV As Lakers Hit 12-Game Stretch On RSN

Time Warner Cable SportsNet and the Pac-12 Network are still mired in carriage disputes with DirecTV and Dish, but the time "has come to find some common ground," according to Michael Lev of the ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER. The Lakers are in the "midst of a stretch of 12 consecutive games available only on TWC SportsNet," and the Pac-12 Net is "about to broadcast their third USC football game this season, against Arizona State on Saturday." The net already has "done four UCLA games." Representatives of DirecTV, TWC and the Pac-12, "did not express optimism that any agreements are imminent." DirecTV's stance is that it is "protecting its customers by resisting additional costs." Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures co-Founder & CEO Chris Bevilacqua said, "If DirecTV is going to maintain the essence of their brand as the leader in sports, they're going to have to sit down and figure it out" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 11/9). However, in L.A., Tom Hoffarth writes DirecTV "appears to be digging in with a stance that it refuses to be bullied" into putting TWC SportsNet "on a basic-tier level with a hefty price tag just because everyone has it." DirecTV Chair, President & CEO Mike White told shareholders during a Q3 earnings call, "We hope to have a deal on that content. But all of these new channels that everybody here wants, and they want to stick it into the bundle, is not right. ... I think the regional sports network structure in the industry is broken." Hoffarth writes, "We're at one of those interesting tipping points, where everyone else in the media world is monitoring to see which way this topples" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 11/9).

WITMER RESPONDS: Time Warner Cable Exec VP and Chief Video & Content Officer Melinda Witmer Thursday at the '12 Covington & Burling Sports Media & Technology Conference responded to White's comments that the RSN structure was broken. She said, “I think that some of the math that Mike’s quoting, I’m not quite understanding. But I think most importantly, I’d remind Mike that he owns regional sports networks. And I’ll tell you Time Warner Cable pays a lot more for the Root Sports networks than we’re asking DirecTV to pay for the Lakers. The system is broken and a mess when it’s not their product. We feel comfortable that we’re offering good value for fans.” Witmer also commented on being on the other side of the RSN equation as an owner now. She said, “It has been an illuminating experience in a lot of ways. Not the least of which has been coming to understand better the challenges that other distributors have. We understand cable really well. We understand the way we package really well. But it has given us an opportunity to understand better how others are addressing and serving their consumers. More than anything, we said we know the value assessments we make and we have to deliver value that Time Warner Cable would justify on the other side or we’ll end up being the only ones distributing the product" (THE DAILY).
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