Besides owning cable systems that have more than 11 million subscribers, Time Warner Cable owns two regional sports networks in Los Angeles and is preparing to launch a third next year. It also owns a piece of a sports channel in
But it is the Los Angeles outlets that are the big-ticket items. SportsNet and Deportes, launched last year, are home to the
Neither deal was cheap. Time Warner Cable agreed to pay $8.5 billion for rights to the Dodgers for 25 years. The Lakers deal runs 20 years and is north of $3 billion; some have pegged its price tag at as much as $5 billion.
While Time Warner Cable managed to get carriage deals for SportsNet and Deportes done with everyone but satellite broadcaster Dish Network, the process left a bad taste in the mouth of
If Time Warner Cable can't secure distribution on other outlets in the Los Angeles area including Cox and DirecTV, it is on the hook with the Dodgers to cover the lost revenue. That could add up to more than $300 million annually.
One of Time Warner Cable's potential suitors,
"We've got runaway sports rights, runaway sports salaries and what is essentially a high tax on a lot of households that don't have a lot of interest in sports," Malone said in an interview last year with the Los Angeles Times. "The consumer is really getting squeezed, as is the cable operator."
If neither Comcast nor Charter wanted the Los Angeles channels, Fox Sports would seem to be a suitor. But
The odds of Time Warner Cable holding onto the channels while selling the systems seems unlikely. It only entered the sports channel business to guarantee that its systems would have the product.
Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.