Cablevision, SNY Strike a Long-Term Deal

Cablevision Systems Corp. has met the Mets. The cable operator has reached a long-term agreement with SportsNet New York, the new cable home of Major League Baseball's New York Mets.

The regional sports network, which launched on March 16 and will carry up to 125 of the Amazins' regular-season games, was added to the operator's Family Cable (expanded basic) level of service on Thursday. SNY is a partnership between the Mets-owned Sterling Entertainment Enterprises, Time Warner Inc. and Comcast Corp.

The deal, terms of which were not disclosed, also calls for Cablevision, which counts 3 million video subscribers in the New York DMA, to present all of the Mets homes games in the high-definition format.

Cablevision-owned Madison Square Garden Network and FSN New York were the cable home of the Mets through the 2005 season.

Industry executives peg the rate card for SNY, which also offers sports news telecasts, extensive New York Jets coverage, college sports and coverage of local events, in the $1.70 to $1.75 range per month.

(For more on regional sports networks and baseball, see page 32).

SNY spokesman Andrew Fegyveresi, who noted that the Cablevision deal puts the service in front of some 6 million subscribers, said “we're actively negotiating with all cable operators and satellite providers in our footprint.”

Individuals familiar with the negotiations say DirecTV Inc. and RCN Corp. could be the next distributors to strike deals with SNY.

The peaceful and relatively quick addition of Cablevision to the SNY distribution lineup comes in sharp contrast to the bitter and public-finger pointing that characterized Cablevision's negotiations with the Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network in 2002, when that regional began airing New York Yankees games that previously ran on MSGN. At the time, Cablevision steadfastly maintained that its customers should have the choice to take the pricey regional sports network. The MSO didn't carry YES at all that first season and only came to a long-term deal for carriage on expanded basis through binding arbitration before the 2004 season.

The establishment of that precedent — not to mention the fact that Cablevision-owned entertainment networks are carried by Comcast and Time Warner — evidently made for a much more peaceful negotiation process with SNY.