Are you a diehard Lakers fan who is looking forward to watching the squad play in their first preseason game of 2012 tonight? Have you been salivating at the prospect of, finally, seeing what sort of magic Steve Nash can work on this offense? Well, if you’re a DirecTV subscriber – you won’t get that opportunity. Why? Because you’re being used as a pawn in negotiations between Time Warner Cable and DirecTV.
You will recall, the Lakers recently agreed to a brand new, monster $3 billion television deal with Time Warner Cable. That deal, in a lot of people’s minds, made it possible for them to do what they did this summer. Unfortunately, as is usually the case, there is a flip side to that coin. The deal also ensured an inevitable, sort of messy, and really painful period during which DirecTV, Dish, Charter, Verizon FiOS, AT&T U-verse, etc. subscribers will have to grit their teeth and not watch their favorite team play.
According to the Daily News and Los Angeles Times, Time Warner wants DirecTV and other cable providers to pony up $3.95 per person for the right to broadcast Lakers games. (Note: we haven't confirmed that it's actually $3.95.) The cost for any additional channel, be it $1, $3.95 or $10, can only be handled in one of two ways by providers like DirecTV – eaten or passed along to consumers. Even if providers go with option A and initially just opt to eat the cost, inevitably, down the road they will find a way to pass it along. If they go with option B, they will unfairly pass it along -- right off the bat -- to those unfortunate few who are not Lakers fans and don’t want to see their bills go up just because we, the diehard fans, want to watch our squad ball.
Now, a popular argument against that last point is that a lot of people are already paying for channels they don’t want. If we can do it, why can’t others? True, we are paying for channels we don’t want. But for the most part, those channels came relatively cheaply as part of deals for other channels that we do watch which are owned by the same company. It’s not as cut and dry as “I don’t watch Nickelodeon, why am I paying for it?” You’re paying for it because Viacom lumps it in there with Comedy Central, MTV, etc.
This is a different situation.
At the end of the day, you can justify everyone’s position here. Jerry Buss wanted one last crazy payday for his family. Time Warner wants return on their crazy expenditure. And DirecTV doesn’t want to screw existing customers. (For fear of losing them, not because they actually care.) It’s hard to find fault with anyone because, really, everyone’s positions are reasonable. And because everyone's positions are reasonable, it's impossible to know who to put pressure on. Should Time Warner lessen the fee and recoup their money spent a little slower? Should DirecTV just eat the cost (which, again, they won't really do)?
It's tough to say.
Either way, though – the fans are still getting screwed. And it’s worth remembering, ordering league pass won’t bail L.A. fans out of this mess. Games will be blacked out on league pass for L.A. folks.
(Here is an interesting note from the Daily News on the matter, make of it what you will: "It behooves DirecTV, Dish, Charter, Verizon FiOS, AT&T U-verse and Cox to wait things out until actual Lakers games begin. DirecTV, for example, stands to save itself a couple hundred thousand dollars every day until the end of the month.")
This has to get resolved sooner rather than later – the Lakers are too big of a deal in this town for it not to get resolved. But until it does, things are going to suck. Bad.