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MSG Networks Blacked Out on Comcast in N.J., Connecticut

New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers in 2021
MSG Networks leaves Comcast's lineup in New Jersey and Connecticut with the New York Rangers set to face off later this month. (Image credit: Allen Kee/ESPN Images)

MSG Networks and Comcast failed to reach an agreement by Thursday night at midnight, and regional sports networks MSG and MSG Plus are no longer available to Comcast subscribers in New Jersey and Connecticut. 

“We don’t believe that our customers should have to pay the millions of dollars in fees that MSG is demanding for some of the most expensive sports content in the country with extremely low viewership in our markets,” Comcast said in a statement. “We have successfully negotiated thousands of agreements with programmers and reached agreements in almost every instance and are disappointed that MSG decided to pull their content rather than reach a fair agreement.” 

Regional sports networks have very high subscriber fees and are increasingly having difficulties maintaining carriage from both traditional distributors and new virtual multichannel video programming distributors.

Earlier on Thursday, Dish Network pulled the plug on AT&T’s regional sports networks in Denver, Pittsburgh and Seattle. At this point, Dish carries very few regional sports networks, having dropped Sinclair Broadcast Group’s Bally Sports Networks back in 2019, when they were owned by Fox.

Comcast owns a handful of RSNs, including SNY in the New York market, where it competes with MSG Networks.

Also Read: Ergen: Decision to Drop Fox RSNs One of Simple Math

Regional sports networks are trying to remain on distributors' basic tier, which means all subscribers pay for the channels, whether or not they are sports fans or game watchers. The distributors want a situation where people who want to watch games pay for the privilege.

In a statement, MSG Networks noted that fans were looking forward to the start of the NBA and NHL seasons.

“Comcast dropped MSG Networks to try to force us to accept terms they’d never agree to for their own regional sports networks, including SNY in New York,” MSG said. “They rejected proposals that are consistent with their current deal and deals we have with other major providers, as well as our offer to keep our programming on air under existing terms so we could continue to work on a longer-term agreement. And even though they’ve taken away hundreds of live Knicks, Devils, Rangers and Islanders games, they continue to charge Xfinity customers the same monthly rate — in addition to a regional sports fee that they increased 22% in January to more than $10 per month. Comcast’s refusal to negotiate is deeply disappointing.”

MSG earlier this week began running ads warning viewers they could lose the channel and New York Knicks, New York Rangers, New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils games once the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League seasons start.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting + Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.