The Lakers and Time Warner Cable are giving DirecTV a headache. (AFP/Getty Images )
The Lakers are battling the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night on Time Warner Cable's new regional sports channel SportsNet, but if DirecTV subscribers want to follow the action they'll either have to visit a bar that's showing the game or go old school and listen to the radio.
And it may be that way for awhile.
Speaking with Wall Street analysts and investors Tuesday about the satellite broadcaster's third-quarter results, DirecTV Chief Executive Mike White did not sound optimistic, but rather someone trying to draw a line in the sand.
While White said DirecTV continues to have "active discussions" with Time Warner Cable about carrying SportsNet and its Spanish-language companion Deportes, he also blasted the rising cost of programming, particularly for sports.
"Everybody wants a new channel and they want to stick it into the bundle and it's not right," White told analysts.
That seemed to be aimed right at Time Warner Cable, which acquired the rights to the Lakers so it could launch SportsNet and now wants other distributors to put it on their most widely distributed programming packages.
DirecTV has asked if it could offer SportsNet on a specialty tier with similar channels that subscribers would have to request and pay extra for, an offer Time Warner Cable rejected. Time Warner Cable is seeking as much as $3.95 per month, per subscriber for SportsNet, according to people familiar with the matter.
Putting SportsNet on DirecTV's broadest package of channels is "taxing most of our customers who wouldn't be willing to pay for that content," White said. Cox Cable, which also has a large customer base in Southern California, took a similar stand until agreeing to a deal with Time Warner Cable a few days ago.
Other distributors carrying SportsNet include Verizon Fios, Charter Communications and AT&T U-Verse. Like DirecTV, satellite broadcaster Dish Network has yet to reach an agreement with Time Warner Cable.
White went on to say that the entire regional sports network structure is "broken." White is not alone in his thinking. Other distributors, including, ironically, Time Warner Cable, have often complained about regional sports networks, which are very expensive to carry.
"I think we're going to continue to see very, very tough discussions by all distributors with content providers, to try and mitigate these outrageous cost increases that are unaffordable to the average customer," White said.
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