The endless Twitter messages Jeanie Buss receives in her inbox mostly center on one thing — concern from Los Angeles Lakers fans on whether their cable subscriber will feature Time Warner Cable SportsNet, which has a 20-year, $3 billion agreement to showcase Lakers programming, including all their games. As The Times’ Joe Flint reported, no cable outfit has agreed to TWC’s asking price of an additional $3.95 per month to carry the channel.
Buss, the Lakers’ executive vice president of business operations, conceded that she doesn’t have the channel, either. But she relies on former Lakers coach and longtime companion Phil Jackson for help. She plans to simply watch the games at Jackson’s residence.
“Certainly we hope we’ll be able to reach every single person living in Los Angeles and Southern California,” Buss said at a recent Time Warner Cable SportsNet event. “I’m usually at the game. But when they’re on the road, I’m usually hanging out with Phil since he’s home. I don’t see that issue coming up for myself.”
Buss sounded mindful of the potential short-term repercussions over the new network. Some Lakers fans could miss out on at least some preseason games should other cable providers fail to pick up Time Warner Cable’s channel. Assuming that gets resolved, customers could feel the squeeze out of their own pockets.
Still, Buss hopes Lakers fans understand the positive benefits the channel arrangement will bring the organization.
The Lakers have a league-high $99.2 million payroll, which will cost them an additional $28.9 million in luxury taxes. Starting next season, that burden becomes greater. NBA teams must pay a $1.50-to-$1 ratio for the first $4.99 million they are over the luxury-tax threshold, a $1.75-to-$1 ratio for being $5 million to $9.99 million above the threshold, a $2.50 ratio for $10 million to $14.99 million over, and a $3.25 ratio for $15 million to $19.99 million beyond the threshold. The Lakers will also have to shell out more money in revenue-sharing.
If not for the Lakers’ cable deal with Time Warner, the deals with Dwight Howard and Steve Nash might not have happened. Likewise, such acquisitions only fuel more content and interest in the cable program.
“It’s tradition and we deliver on what we promise,” Buss said on the organization’s ability to strengthen its brand. “That builds faith from our fan base and that builds faith in our business partners. It’s also from the players’ point of view. Not only are we able to make trades and have a general manager like Mitch Kupchak, who’s not afraid to pull a trigger. That attracts free agents that want to come here because of the positive nature associated with the Lakers. I can’t be more proud of that. We’ll continue to do that.”