Time Warner, MSG Settle Sports Spat

Time Warner Cable and Cablevision’s Madison Square Garden Networks settled their rate dispute and cut a multiyear carriage agreement to return MSG Network, Fox Sports Net New York and three other Fox Sports digital networks to Time Warner Cable systems in the New York area tonight.

Time Warner Cable systems in the New York City area and upstate New York will have the networks by the time tonight’s Mets/Cubs game airs on Fox Sports Net New York at 7:30 p.m. Additional terms of the long-term agreement were not disclosed.

MSG Networks and TWC had been engaged in a spat since last summer over the cost of carriage for the regional sports networks. Time Warner pulled the channels from area systems July 31, leaving some 2 million subscribers without Mets games—except for a few games on WPIX and Fox Broadcasting’s WNYW, which had the broadcast game-of-the-week contract. Having called a temporary truce to get the networks back on-air in August, MSG Networks and TWC permanently resolved the issue in an all-day session today with help from New York State Attorney General Elliot Spitzer.

Cablevision wanted TWC to pay about $2 per subscriber for the two channels—an 18% hike—and add two local Metro channels as part of the deal. Not interested in Metro, TWC said the sports network increase was too high, given that the Mets will leave MSG/Fox Sports New York when the team’s contract expires after next season. Having lost the Yankees four years ago, the sports channels will be left with the New York area’s three hockey teams, the NBA’s Knicks, WNBA’s Liberty and pro soccer team The Metrostars.

The two companies have also traded lawsuits over Cablevision-owned cable channel AMC. TWC says the network’s more recent titles and its decision to take ads violate its carriage agreement.