Time Warner Cable subscribers in the Big Apple environs may not get a chance to watch the new-look New York Knicks unless the MSO can reach a new carriage agreement with MSG Network.
The battle was heating up on Friday night as the pact between the nation's No. 2 cable operator and the regional sports network that presents Knicks games expires on Dec. 31. Officials at MSG Media say Time Warner Cable is threatening to pull MSG Network and sister RSN MSG Plus, if a new deal can't be reached by the new year.
For its part, Time Warner Cable, which this evening pulled MSG Media's national music service Fuse, says MSG is seeking license fee hikes that will make it the most expensive sports network in the nation.
The programmer, which also carries the National Hockey League's New York Rangers and Islanders, the New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabers, college basketball and original fare, says it is trying to ink a new pact with Time Warner Cable at similar license fees as other top providers.
The parties, which signed their current contract in 2005, are continuing to talk, but MSG Media said discussions have been taking place since 2009, and the company is now pointing the operator's subscribers toward alternate providers, urging them to call 1-888 keepmsg (533-7674) or visit keepmsg.com to find alternate providers in their area to make sure they don't miss any games.
"We have been attempting to negotiate a new agreement with Time Warner Cable for close to two years, and are simply asking them to pay fair and reasonable rates that are consistent with what other providers pay for our programming -- nothing more," said Michael Bair, president, MSG Media, in a statement. "Unfortunately, Time Warner Cable is not interested in reaching a fair agreement, and, in fact, is not interested in conducting productive negotiations on behalf of its customers. Because of that, we suggest that our customers switch providers before Time Warner Cable pulls MSG's networks off its systems."
Time Warner Cable, which counts subscribers in the New York City boroughs of Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island, fired off its own pointed statement on Friday night.
"MSG wants a 53% increase in the price we currently pay, which will make MSG the most expensive sports network in the country. They also insist that we continue to carry Fuse, a music network that is watched by .06% of our customers," Time Warner Cable said. "If we don't carry Fuse, they will double the rate they charge for MSG,
"We were close to an agreement for a 6.5% increase in the price we pay, but MSG reneged on that offer two weeks ago when we refused to pay millions for the lightly-viewed Fuse network," the statement continued. "We value sports and understand that costs are rising - we're willing to pay the 6.5% percent increase MSG originally wanted, and we even offered an extension at close to that rate until September 2012 so we could continue negotiating. MSG refused."
MSG, noting that the MSO is now also part of the TV sports programming scene with its upcoming launch of a pair of southern California-based RSNs centering on the NBA LA Lakers and Major League Soccer's Galaxy, said it is continuing to attempt to negotiate to reach a fair agreement.
"But based on Time Warner Cable's unwillingness to even entertain our fair proposals, things don't look good," said Bair.
This is not the first time the parties have squabbled over license fees: MSG was off of Time Warner Cable's air back in 2005.
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