Knicks Un-Nixed: Verizon Launches MSG HD Channels On FiOS TV

Verizon Communications on Thursday launched MSG HD and MSG+ HD for FiOS TV customers in the New York market -- just in time for the National Basketball League's post-lockout tip-off later this month -- after Cablevision Systems lost a final bid to block an FCC order forcing it to offer the programming to telco rivals.

As of Thursday morning, both MSG HD and MSG+ HD were available to FiOS TV subscribers, although currently the service lacks program information for the channels. The channel numbers will vary depending on location, according to Verizon: MSG HD is on channel 577, 578 or 579, and MSG+ HD is on 579, 580 or 581.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Wednesday denied Cablevision/MSG Holdings' petition to review the Federal Communications Commission's September order that Cablevision make the HD feeds of its regional sports networks available to Verizon's FiOS TV and AT&T's U-verse TV.

Both telcos carry standard-definition feeds of the MSG networks in the New York region. But Cablevision had refused to provide the HD versions, citing FCC rules that terrestrially delivered HD networks were exempt from program-access requirements. The FCC last year closed that loophole.

In its marketing over the last several years, Cablevision touted the fact that the MSG HD networks were not available on FiOS or U-verse TV, noting that only the MSO was able to provide "every HD game of all nine New York sports teams."

MSG Networks -- which Cablevision spun off last year along with the Madison Square Garden arena itself -- is the RSN home of the New York Knicks, New York Rangers, Buffalo Sabres, New York Red Bulls, New Jersey Devils and WNBA's New York Liberty.

"We have been fighting hard to provide our customers in the greater New York area with the sports programming they deserve," Verizon manager of media relations Heather Wilner wrote in a blog post Wednesday. "This includes the HD feeds of both MSG and MSG+, two regional sports channels that until recently were owned by Cablevision."

AT&T also is expected to soon add both MSG HD feeds to its U-verse TV lineup for Connecticut customers.