CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -The Charlotte Bobcats solved two problems, securing a naming rights deal for its arena and getting out of a television contract that limited the team's reach.
A person with knowledge of the negotiations told The Associated Press on Monday that Charlotte Bobcats Arena will be renamed Time Warner Cable Arena. In exchange, the Bobcats will immediately end a TV deal with the cable company that prevented Bobcats games from being shown on regional sports networks and satellite TV services.
The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because an official announcement was not scheduled until Tuesday, said Bobcats games will shift from Time Warner Cable's News 14 to Fox Sports' regional television networks Fox Sports Net South and SportSouth.
The new TV deal begins Tuesday night when the Bobcats' home game with Minnesota will air on FSN South.
It was uncertain how much money, if any, Time Warner Cable would pay to get its name on Charlotte's downtown arena, which has been without a naming rights deal since it opened in 2005.
The agreement also solves a distribution problem that has prevented many fans from watching the fledgling franchise.
Owner Bob Johnson partnered with Time Warner Cable in 2004 to start a regional sports network, Carolinas Sports and Entertainment Television. The network, nicknamed C-SET, was only available on Time Warner's digital cable service. That prevented fans with only basic cable and satellite subscribers from watching most of the Bobcats' games in their inaugural 2004-05 season.
C-SET folded after losing millions in less than a year, but the Bobcats were stuck with a long-term deal with Time Warner Cable. The games shifted to the cable company's news channel, which is available on basic cable.
But fans in areas north of Charlotte and other parts of the Carolinas not served by Time Warner Cable still couldn't see the games. Satellite TV subscribers were also shut out, save for a handful of games that were shown on over-the-air television. It led to a strange scenario where many restaurants and bars within walking distance of the arena that have satellite TV couldn't show Bobcats games.
The Bobcats, Time Warner Cable and NBA officials have discussed for months the unique swap that ends a three-year naming rights search for Bobcats Arena, which also houses the Charlotte Checkers minor-league hockey team.
The Bobcats were never able to match other teams in getting a lucrative yearly income from a company wanting to put its name on an arena. The lack of interest mirrored fans' apathy toward the team. The Bobcats rank 23rd out of 30 NBA teams this season with an average attendance of 14,631 per game.
The city of Charlotte built the $265 million arena with hotel and rental car taxes in exchange for securing the expansion Bobcats after the NBA's Hornets moved to New Orleans in 2002. Under an agreement with the city, the Bobcats keep all revenue from a naming rights deal.
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