Cablevision, SportsNet: Game On

Cablevision Systems Corp. has met the Mets.

The New York-area MSO 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 March 16 and will carry up to 125 “Amazins” regular-season games -- was added to the MSO's “Family Cable” (expanded-basic) level of service Thursday.

SNY is a partnership between 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 HD.

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

Sources pegged the rate card for SNY -- which also offers sports-news telecasts, extensive New York Jets National Football League coverage, college sports and coverage of local events -- in the $1.70-$1.75 range per month.

In addition to carriage from its owners, Comcast and Time Warner Cable, the fourth RSN in the New York market has deals with Mid-Hudson Cablevision Inc., MTC Cable and Warrick Valley Telephone Co. Last Wednesday, it inked a pact with Verizon Communications Inc., and the service will be available to FiOS TV homes in Massapequa Park, Nyack and South Nyack, N.Y.

An SNY spokesman -- 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."

Sources familiar with the negotiations said 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 Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network in 2002, when that regional began airing New York Yankees MLB games that previously aired on MSGN.

At the time, Cablevision steadfastly maintained that its customers should have the choice of whether to take the pricey regional sports network. The MSO didn't carry YES at all during its first season, and it 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 peaceful negotiation process with SNY.