YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

The Shaq Derby: Lakers Get Their Man | THE TV PICTURE

O'Neal Brings Marquee Value and Extra Costs


The acquisition of Shaquille O'Neal is unquestionably a boon to the Lakers' two local television carriers, Channel 9 and Prime Sports, but it doesn't come without a price.

When the Kings got Wayne Gretzky in 1988, Prime Sports, then Prime Ticket, upped its rights fee more than one third, from about $2 million to $2.8 million.

It is believed Prime paid almost $150,000 per regular-season game last season for the rights to the Lakers, or about $6 million for the season.

Kitty Cohen, Prime's general manager, said because of a confidentiality clause, she could not comment on any financial aspects of the O'Neal acquisition.

But other sources said the O'Neal deal will work something like the Gretzky deal. When Gretzky left the Kings, Prime's rights fee dropped back down about a third.

Channel 9, unlike Prime, does not pay a straight rights fee to the Lakers. The station and the team have a partnership in which revenue is shared.

Don Corsini, Channel 9 vice president, also declined comment about any financial matters.

Laker broadcaster Chick Hearn, like everyone else connected with the team, was ecstatic Thursday.

"This is a big boost for the team and for me personally," he said. "This is the third time I've experience the acquisition of a superstar center. There was Wilt [Chamberlain] in 1968 and Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] in 1975.

"Now it's a 24-year-old phenom.

"I feel revitalized. If anyone can sell out at building, this is the guy."

O'Neal no doubt will also drive up television ratings.

Neither Cohen nor Corsini would speculate on how much Laker ratings would go up, but both agreed they would get a needed boost.

The last time the Lakers went to the NBA finals, Prime averaged a 5.6 rating. The average last season was down to a 4.8.

Channel 9 did not have regular-season ratings available Thursday, but a 1990 playoff game against Houston got a 13.0 rating.

This season, a playoff game against Houston on Channel 9 got an 11.7.

Although NBC spokesman Ed Markey also declined to speculate on any increase in network ratings, he did say: "Having one of the game's biggest stars in the No. 2 market certainly would be a cause for some interest."


On his KWNK talk show Wednesday afternoon, Joe McDonnell reported that the O'Neal-to-Lakers deal was done and it would be announced Thursday.

"I found out the night before, from three different sources, but I had heard for $117 million," McDonnell said Thursday.

But because of KWNK's limited listening audience, McDonnell's report didn't cause much of a stir.

More of a stir came when Channel 7's Todd Donoho reported it was a done deal at 11:25 p.m. Wednesday.

An Associated Press report at midnight, quoting Leonard Armato, O'Neal's agent, denied the KABC-TV report, saying it was not yet a done deal, although apparently by then it was.

Donoho got the story mainly because of the work of Greg Warmoth, a sportscaster for the Orlando ABC station, WFTV, who was encamped at the Dream Team's hotel in Atlanta.

"Greg told us at 9:30 that he had learned from John Gabriel [Orlando's vice president of basketball operations] that the Magic was bowing out," Donoho said. "At 11:15, he called to say he had just talked to Shaq on the hotel elevator, and Shaq told him he'd see him at the news conference the next day."

Channel 7 then put Warmoth on the air at 11:25.

"[Producers] Mark Petrovich and Stan Radford deserve a lot of credit for putting it all together," Donoho said.

Donoho said his station, even without Warmoth's final verification at 11:15, would have led the 11 o'clock newscast with the O'Neal acquisition had it not been for the TWA disaster. He said they were convinced the Lakers had him.

Los Angeles Times Articles