- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Los Angeles Lakers made history by signing Magic Johnson to a 25-year contract in 1981. Thirty years later they're doing it again, entering an unprecedented 20-year television agreement with Time Warner Cable to distribute Lakers games and original programming across two regional sports networks in HD that will include the nation's first Spanish-language regional sports network.
Prior to the Lakers game against the Charlotte Bobcats on Monday at Time Warner Cable Arena, the team announced the deal with the network that will show all locally available preseason, regular season and postseason Lakers games.
Finances of the deal were not released, per Lakers team policy. It undoubtedly promises to be a lucrative arrangement that will go into effect at the beginning of the 2012-13 season, when the current deals with broadcast partners KCAL Channel 9 and Fox Sports Net expire.
"Suffice to say, any sports team in any league in any country if they're going to be doing a broadcast agreement, there is a component that includes a discussion of economics and economics was something that needed to make sense for the Lakers and it does," said Tim Harris, Lakers vice president of business operations.
The yet-to-be-named channels will feature an expansive amount of Lakers content, but will not exclusively broadcast programming related to the purple and gold. The New York Yankees' YES Network, for instance, also broadcasts the Nets and college sports.
"Certainly the Lakers will be anchoring both of these channels but we intend to be in business for the long haul and we'll be evaluating other programming opportunities as they come along," said Melinda Witmer, executive vice president and chief programming officer for Time Warner Cable.
The channels will broadcast a nightly Lakers news magazine show as well as develop and create both original and historical Lakers programming, according to Witmer.
"It just made sense," said Harris. "As we got into the discussions with Time Warner, we seemed to have a lot of synergy and common mindset as to what we wanted and how we saw Lakers programming. Really it boils down that we saw that we both wanted more Lakers and it just made sense for us to do a longer term deal at this juncture."
The team expressed added excitement about the Spanish-language channel portion of the agreement.
"I'm pretty confident in saying that no one has what is going to be coming which is a side-by-side Spanish and English RSN package that caters to both English-speaking fans and Spanish-speaking fans," said Harris. "That is completely new and that is one of the things I think is most exciting to the Lakers and really, [Lakers owner] Dr. [Jerry] Buss is ecstatic there's going to be a Spanish RSN as part of this arrangement."
Said Buss, in a statement: "Time Warner Cable has been producing quality sports programming for over a decade and the Lakers have been producing championship seasons for even longer. I am particularly proud of being part of the first-ever Spanish-language RSN in the country. Together I'm confident we will delight our fans."
The networks will be available to all satellite, cable and telco distributors in the Lakers' territory, which includes all of Southern California, Nevada and Hawaii.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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