With its L.A. Dodgers-focused regional sports network, SportsNet LA, on the cusp of its first birthday, and the team's first spring-training game set for March 4, Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) appears to be no closer to making a crucial carriage deal with DirecTV (NASDAQ: DTV) that would greatly expand the RSN's limited reach.
But as sports fans and columnists continue to rage at the fact that a premiere Major League Baseball team is only accessible to about third of the Southern California television market, the other shoe has apparently dropped.
Ratings for Los Angeles Lakers games on TWC SportsNet, exclusive home to the NBA team, are down 25 percent from last season, with the team allegedly trying to lose games in order to obtain a higher-seeded selection in the upcoming player draft.
With the season past its midway point, Lakers games are averaging a meager 1.95 audience rating on SportsNet. That's on pace to be worse than the 2.11 ratings average Nielsen reported for the channel in 2013-14, its first in operation.
Neither the team nor the cable company are commenting as to whether their deal has provisions that will allow TWC to exit the pact if the Lakers endure a prolonged drought of success.
TWC is paying the Lakers about $3 billion over 20 years to secure exclusive TV rights to the team's games. It's paying the Dodgers $8.35 billion over 25 years for similar rights.
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Playing the SportsNet LA blame game: Include the fans and the team, too