Any hope Lakers fans who have been missing TV games on Dish and DirecTV had that the third coming of coach Phil Jackson would provide the impetus to end the dispute with rights-holder Time Warner Cable has been quashed.
Could Mike D’Antoni, the former New York Knicks coach hired instead of Jackson late Sunday night, get fans so excited the companies would be compelled to get the Lakers games back on TV to avert a public relations nightmare?
No, he won't. But if it’s any consolation, the hiring of Jackson probably wouldn’t have moved the negotiation needle, either.
“Dish is currently talking with Time Warner Cable SportsNet, but we will only be able to come to an agreement if the programming is offered at a good value for our customers,’ Dish spokesman Bob Toevs told TheWrap Monday.
Translation: The negotiations will be driven by dollars, not rabid fans.
So, seven game into the season, subscribers to the those channels remain unable to watch their heroes because the cable and satellite broadcasters have yet to come to terms on a carriage deal with Time Warner.
“I’m sure D’Antoni’s a competent guy,” Lakers fan and DirecTV subscriber Callista Lee told TheWrap, “but he’s not Phil Jackson, who really would have brought a lot of excitement. I guess we should wait and see; if they start winning under this guy, then maybe that’ll bring the same sort of pressure.”
The dispute stems from the Oct. 1 launch by Time Warner Cable of the channels Time Warner Cable SportsNet and the Spanish-language Time Warner Cable Deportes, which have almost exclusive rights to the games throughout the Southern California region, as well as Las Vegas and Nevada.
Prior to the launch of the new stations, Laker fans were able to view games as part of their standard cable package or on some broadcast TV channels. With Time Warner Cable's new networks, other carriers face an extra $3.95 monthly per subscriber, which could lead to a rate increase for subscribers.
Time Warner Cable wasn’t talking, other than to say negotiations are ongoing. But it’s clear that anything that heightens interest in the Lakers would be a plus in terms of galvanizing public support for a resolution to the disputes.
The fans' interest level was and remains particularly high, due in large part to the Lakers’ pre-season acquisition of future Hall of Fame guard Steve Nash and star center Dwight Howard.