Executive VP and Chief Video and Content Officer, Time Warner Cable
By Stuart Miller -- Broadcasting & Cable, 6/4/2012 12:01:00 AM
Last year, Witmer committed ten figures to sew up local rights to the Los Angeles Lakers for the next two decades, creating not one but two regional sports networks in the market—including a ground-breaking Spanish-language RSN— to showcase the popular NBA franchise. Time Warner followed that up with multi-year deals for Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy and the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks. Time Warner is building new facilities for the networks.
“Live sports is a main driver, especially with all the time-shifting in television viewing,” Witmer says. “This is a chance to work with a powerful brand and help fans connect with the product.”
The MSO had been looking for a way to better serve the Hispanic community: “The Lakers are enormously popular with Latinos, so this is an opportunity to do something really special.”
To handle all these operations, Witmer formed a new division, Time Warner Cable Sports, and hired veteran executive David Rone to oversee it. (The company also got in on a deal with other operators to create a series of networks for the Pac-12 college sports conference.)
“I won’t handle the day-to-day, I let my staff do their thing,” Witmer says. “But I am de! nitely not hands-off. I was the architect of this vision—of what the Lakers wanted and what Time Warner wanted—and now I will be its steward.”
While she’s already looking into other sports opportunities, Witmer says she has made sure that each new hire in Los Angeles understands the big-picture goals. She gets regular updates and “definitely weighs in” on the details.
And Witmer knows first-hand what Lakers fans want. “I grew up in a crazed Laker household— during the Bird-Magic era, I even went to the Boston Garden dressed head-to-toe in Lakers gear,” she recalls, adding this probably helped her seal the deal with Lakers ownership: “It’s a family-owned business, so forging relationships are even more important, and I could personally connect with the heritage of the team.”
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