The carriage negotiations' squabble between Madison Square Garden Network and Time Warner Cable continued to heat up Saturday with the programmer informing the MSO's subscribers watching a New York Knicks game that a disconnect could be in the offing.
The parties evidently have been negotiating for two years and have yet to reach a carriage renewal for MSG Network and sister regional sports network, MSG Plus. The contract for the two RSNs, as well as Fuse, expires on Dec. 31. Time Warner Cable dropped the music service on Dec. 16.
MSGN, during its coverage of the Knicks in their first preseason game of the lockout-delayed 2011-12 NBA season against cross-river rival New Jersey Nets on Saturday afternoon, began running a crawl on the bottom of its screen aimed at Time Warner Cable subscribers.
"Attention Time Warner Cable customers! Time Warner Cable may drop MSG and MSG+ on January 1st, and you will no longer be able to watch MSG's exclusive coverage of Knicks, Rangers, Devils and Islanders games," one message read. "Log onto keepmsg.com or call 1-888-KeepMSG (888-533-7674) for more information to switch TV providers now." It also included logos for RCN, Verizon FiOS and DirecTV.
MSG Media officials indicate they are seeking rates from Time Warner Cable -- which they point out has upped its position in the sports TV universe with the upcoming launch of a pair of southern California-based RSNs centering on the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers and Major League Soccer's Galaxy -- that are akin to what other top operators are paying for the RSNs.
The launch of the crawl followed Time Warner Cable's drop of Fuse Friday evening. MSG Media, in turn, fired off a press release, voicing concerns that the RSNS might go dark and similarly pointed Time Warner Cable customers in the New York metro area, Buffalo and other upstate New York markets to seek out an alternate provider in order to ensure they will continue to have access to coverage of the retooled Knicks, as well as the NHL's New York Rangers and Islanders, New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabers.
Time Warner Cable responded with its own salvo, stating the MSG wanted a 53% price hike that would make it the most expensive sports network in the country, and that the rate would double if it didn't carry Fuse. The MSO said the parties had come close to an agreement at a much lower rate a couple of weeks back, but MSG then reneged on the offer when the operator refused to pay millions for the "lightly viewed" music network.
MSG Media officials emphasize they are negotiating renewals for both of the RSNs, not just MSGN, and thus Time Warner Cable is overstating the programmer's pricing ask.
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