You can't blame Bill Daniels, owner of Prime Ticket, for wearing a big smile these days. Not only is the Kings' success a financial boon to his regional cable network, which is the exclusive L.A. carrier of the Stanley Cup finals, he also played a key role in that success.
One day in August of 1988, Daniels got a call from King owner Bruce McNall.
"I think he called from his airplane," Daniels said. "He said he had a chance to get Wayne Gretzky, but he needed our help."
McNall wanted Daniels to agree to pay a higher rights fee for the Kings. McNall, who would owe the Edmonton Oilers $15 million if the deal went through, sought an increase of $750,000 per year to $2.28 million.
"I told Bruce I'd get back to him, and he said that would be fine, but I only had about 10 minutes," Daniels said. "I got my pen out and hurriedly went to work on the figures."
Daniels saw the possibilities, called back and gave the OK.
"It was a big risk," Daniels said. "But I always say, 'High risk, high return.' "
Daniels has been watching the playoffs from his various homes, in Indian Wells, Del Mar or Denver, where he maintains his primary residence. He said he prefers to watch the games alone.
"That way I can study the production quality without any interruptions," he said.
Daniels has liked what he has seen, particularly Gretzky's three goals in Game 7 of the Toronto series. With it came the satisfaction of knowing he had made the right decision when he said yes to McNall.
"I'm just ecstatic," Daniels said. "I know this is a very big thing for Prime Ticket, but I'm also very happy for Bruce McNall. This means so much for hockey in Los Angeles."
Although each hockey playoff telecast brings in about $250,000 in advertising revenue, or about a third more than a regular-season telecast, Prime Ticket also has to pay a higher rights fee for postseason games.
The big financial impact on Prime Ticket will come next season, Daniels said.
"This really gives our sales force something to sell," he said.
In the future, there will be less disparity between the Lakers and Kings. A 30-second spot on a regular-season Laker telecast on Prime Ticket brings in about $6,000, a regular-season King telecast $1,500-$2,000. But spots during the Stanley Cup finals are going for between $6,000 and $7,000.
It has been quite a run for the Kings, and quite a run for Prime Ticket.