When it was first announced that the Los Angeles Lakers would soon be changing broadcasting partners, many fans felt uneasy about the entire situation. After 35 years of watching their beloved Lakers on KCAL and Fox Sports West, the future seemed uncertain. When the Lakers organization agreed to a lucrative contract with Time Warner Cable for exclusive broadcast rights, even more questions began to arise.
Now, for the first time a lot of those questions are able to be answered. While the Lakers are in the thick of a post-season run, Time Warner has announced their tentative plans for the future, and how they plan on making the entire Lakers experience an unforgettable one.
On Thursday morning, Time Warner distributed a press release that gave a basic blueprint of their intentions with the Lakers. They announced several key pieces of information involving the team and the way fans will view the games. First of all, there will be two networks: Time Warner Cable SportsNet and Time Warner Cable Deportes. Each will be a one-stop-shop, either in English or Spanish, for everything involving the Lakers, Sparks and Los Angeles Galaxy.
However, there were still plenty of unanswered questions that fans were pondering. The uncertainty that change inevitably brings isn’t always easy to understand. In order to answer some of these other questions, I was fortunate enough to speak to David Rone, president of sports at Time Warner Cable.
Obviously, the main concern the fans have had going into next season is the question of whether or not they will have access to Time Warner SportsNet if they aren’t Time Warner Cable subscribers. The prospect of losing the ability to watch Laker games due simply to which cable provider you’re subscribed to is a remarkably disheartening possibility. But don’t fret, Rone says it won’t be an issue.
“It should not be a concern. My job is to sell these networks to every type of distributor. For the first time ever, Lakers fans will be able to get all their games in one place. They won’t have to to go to two different destinations. All local games are now going to be seen on our two networks, Time Warner Cable SportsNet and Time Warner Deportes.”
Since this quickly debunks the myth that you must be subscribed to Time Warner Cable in order to receive these new networks, fans should also make a point to talk to their current cable providers and inform them that Time Warner Cable SportsNet is a crucial package that they will soon want access to.
Still, while the team is shifting to a new network, that doesn’t mean that things are going to be different from what fans have been used to in the past. There’s no doubt the Lakers are one of the most popular sports franchises in the country, and they have built a strong reputation with their fans through their broadcasts. According to Rone, that’s something that Time Warner will look to build on, and use as a launching pad to transition them into the future.
“We’re expecting a very smooth transition. We have the absolute cooperation, enthusiasm and optimism from the Lakers about helping that transition be as smooth as possible. A lot of what Laker fans have come to know, love and really expect in a Laker broadcast they will continue to be able to feel and experience as those games come to Time Warner.”
One area that will remain the same is the voices you hear during the broadcasts. Time Warner announced that they would be bringing back Stu Lantz and Bill Macdonald, who handled play-by-play duties this season for KCAL and Fox Sports West. Since one of the main goals for Time Warner is to make this as seamless a transition as possible, bringing back Lantz and Macdonald was, as Rone put it, paramount.
“All things related to Laker games we do with the Lakers. We speak to the organization daily. They’re very comfortable with the presentation of Lakers talent. It is of paramount importance to keep that as consistent as possible. We are all very excited to have Stu and Bill on our team.”
So while the experience of a Lakers game may not be that much different from what fans are accustomed to already, everything surrounding those games is going to get a major overhaul. As a part of the new network, Time Warner is focusing on providing fans with hours of content that revolve around the team they love.
Due to the fact that there are only 82 games in an NBA season, not including the playoffs of course, there are countless hours where fans will be seeking their Lakers fix without any game action to turn to. This is something that Time Warner is committed to improving, and are looking to add plenty of Laker-related programing that isn’t necessarily live, in-game action.
“In today’s world Laker fans get a pre-game show, games and a post-game show. And that’s really it. We’re now going to be presenting Laker fans, on a daily basis throughout the NBA season, blocks of original programing – Laker-centric programing.”
This should come as a treat for fans that simply can’t get enough of their beloved Lakers. While many of the programming decisions have yet to be made, fans can take comfort in the fact that they will have a channel devoted to providing them with Laker programming on a near round-the-clock basis, which is something that until now was simply not the case.
Another aspect of Time Warner Cable SportsNet that fans previously didn’t have access to, is the inclusion of a nightly, hour-long program that will update fans on all things surrounding the Lakers, as well as a look at all the other NBA action on that specific date. The show, which still is yet to be named, will be Laker-centric, and will take place nightly during the NBA season.
Rone was also very excited about the prospect of offering fans the ability to watch the Lakers online, streaming over the internet. As the demand for streaming content continues to increase, Time Warner Cable SportsNet is looking to establish a relationship with its viewers that allows them to watch all SportsNet programming live and online.
“Its our intention to be one of the first fully authenticated regional sports networks in the country. to present to customers that are subscriber to Time Warner Cable SportsNet that they be able to get those networks online and by way of their tablet or mobile device.”
This is a rather unprecedented news for a sports network to make. While games are offered online through services like NBA League Pass, very few networks offer fans the chance to stream their games, as well as non-game programming, live online. Through Time Warner Cable SportsNet, subscribers will have the chance to watch SportsNet programing online through their various devices.
Unfortunately for out-of-market fans, however, that luxury doesn’t extend beyond the Los Angeles market.
“They would be able to get that throughout L.A.,” Rone said. “You won’t be able to watch a streaming game if you reside in Los Angeles and you take your tablet with you to say, Ohio.”
Regardless, this is an exciting opportunity that previously was unavailable to Lakers fans. Time Warner is looking to improve the overall Laker experience that fans in Southern California have grown accustomed to. While there are many things that have worked great in the past, Time Warner Cable SportsNet is looking to build on these things and give Los Angeles Lakers followers an unparalleled fan experience.
Part of this experience will be through Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets as well. Since the Lakers have one of the biggest social media followings of any professional sports franchise in the world, Time Warner is anxious to allow the fans the opportunity to connect with the team they love through these different platforms.
“We hope to use social media not only in marketing, but in interacting with fans as well. Hopefully you’ll see things like social media opportunities, conversations, and activities taking place in the ticker during Laker broadcasts. We want to continue to create the most immerse Laker fan experience possible.”
There’s no question that exciting things are on the horizon for the Lakers and their fans. With Time Warner set to take over at season’s end, the possibilities seem nearly endless. While there are still some stones that remain unturned for the time being, the knowledge that fans will have more access to the Lakers than ever before is certainly an encouraging sign.