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Cable Technology Feature Article

January 03, 2012

Frustrated New York Hockey, Basketball Fans Ask 'What's with My Cable Channel?'

By Ed Silverstein, TMCnet Contributor

New York sports fans are starting off the new year with major frustration – a blackout on a popular cable TV channel which carries local pro teams.

Time Warner (News - Alert) Cable subscribers in New York and New Jersey find they don’t have the Madison Square Garden (MSG) channel. It was eliminated on Monday following a heated dispute between the two sides. Both sides blame the other for the blackout.

The last contract expired and negotiations fell apart on Dec. 16, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. It is doubtful the two sides will start negotiations again soon.

The New York Daily News estimates that the blackout affects 1.3 million Time Warner viewers in the metro New York City region. Viewers in the upstate New York region also are impacted. Local fans are expected to miss live coverage of the Knicks, Rangers, Islanders, Devils and Sabres on the MSG channel, according to media reports.

In a recent statement to the public, Time Warner Cable alleges that that MSG Networks “rejected all proposals, refused to engage in any meaningful way, and refused to allow us to keep the channel on.”

“We think MSG is being unreasonable – and unfair to fans,” Time Warner Cable adds in the statement. “They continue to demand a 53 percent price increase for their programming, which just doesn’t make sense.   We do want MSG to return to our channel lineup.”

On the other hand, Michael Bair, president, MSG Media, claims in his statement, that “All we have asked is for Time Warner Cable to value our programming in the same way as other TV providers – nothing more, nothing less. Unfortunately, they rejected every offer we made to them for almost two years. In the end, they were simply not interested in conducting serious negotiations on behalf of their customers and instead spent their time grossly mischaracterizing our positions to the public.”

For example, Blair disputes the 53 percent rate jump, but Mike Angus, senior vice president at Time Warner, was quoted that he wants fans to “remind MSG that in these economic times, no one can afford to pay 53 percent more for their channel,” the Daily News reports.

One local sports fan, “maninthemiddle,” disgusted by the entire dispute, posted a comment on the Daily News website, “I might give up cable all together. No reason to keep it now that I can't watch any Knicks games.”

Also, Patricia Mahady, who lives in the upstate community of North Tonawanda, told the Buffalo News, “This is very disappointing. I’ve finally reached a point in the past couple of years where I’ve been following the Sabres and getting to know the players.”

“My mom and dad don’t get out much. They really look forward to watching the games,” Mahady adds. “My mom was just in the hospital … and watching the Sabres was one of the things that helped her get through it.”

In a related matter, the MSG channel was canceled on the Dish Network as of Oct 2010, reports TMCnet. The channel is still not being shown – with fans missing out on the Sabres Knicks, Rangers, Islanders and Devils.

Ed Silverstein is a TMCnet contributor. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Juliana Kenny