MSG Networks Reaches Verizon Fios Renewal as Comcast Blackout Goes on

New York Knicks vs. Indiana Pacers on Oct. 5, 2021
The New York Knicks take on the Indiana Pacers in an Oct. 5 preseason game at Madison Square Garden. (Image credit: Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

MSG Networks, embroiled in a blackout with Comcast, reached an agreement on a multi-year distribution agreement with Verizon Fios.

The deal means that some Comcast subscribers in New Jersey can switch to Fios if they want to avoid missing Knicks, Rangers, Devils and Islanders games on MSG and MSG Plus when the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League seasons start.

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Financial terms were not disclosed.

“We are thrilled to have reached this multi-year agreement with Verizon Fios, who has been a long-time, valued partner. Live sports remains some of the most valuable programming on air, and all of our teams have passionate fan bases,” Adam Levine, executive VP of business affairs for MSG Networks, said. “We look forward to providing our lineup of sports programming to Fios subscribers for years to come.”

Last week, MSG warned viewers that Comcast subscribers in New Jersey and Connecticut could lose access to basketball and hockey matches if a new distribution deal couldn’t be reached. The agreement expired Thursday night and MSG and MSG Plus are currently blacked out in Comcast homes. 

Regional sports networks have been in the crosshairs of distributors concerned about cord-cutting by cost-conscious consumers. RSNs, which make large rights payments for games, demand high rights fees from distributors. Now some distributors, notably Dish Network, have largely stopped carrying them.

Comcast, which owns a string of NBC Sports-branded regional sports networks, cited high costs as a reason for MSG being blacked out.

“MSG Network was the first RSN when it launched in 1969. Back in those days, watching Knicks games was the main reason for getting cable. Now cable operators are saying the high cost of sports is a reason people are dropping pay TV.

"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.

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.