You may have heard that we’re having a business dispute with MSG networks, a fairly normal occurrence for this time of year. It’s becoming pretty standard in the cable world. Programming costs are skyrocketing, and networks try to make us look like the bad guys for trying to minimize price increases for our customers.
The reporters who cover our industry can use a template for this kind of story at this point – one with little blanks for the MSO name, network name, and a two-digit (sometimes a THREE-digit) blank for the fee increase percentage that’s on the table.
In this case, MSG networks wants a 53% fee increase to carry the channels that run most of New York’s favorite winter sports teams. From the New York Times:
MSG Media accused Time Warner Cable on Friday of threatening to remove its networks, MSG and MSG Plus, from its systems in the New York and Buffalo markets on Dec. 31 in a contractual dispute that could deprive viewers of Knicks, Rangers, Islanders, Devils and Sabres games.
Maureen Huff, a spokeswoman for Time Warner Cable, said: “They now want a 53 percent increase, and twice that if we refuse to carry Fuse. That would make MSG the most expensive sports network in the country.” Time Warner on Friday dropped Fuse, MSG Media’s music channel.
Huff also said that MSG “reneged” on an agreement earlier this year that called for a 6.5 percent increase in the rate that Time Warner pays.
That line about us threatening to yank MSG networks is covered in flies and still steaming. As a matter of fact, we issued an open letter to MSG Networks and made a public pledge not to disrupt the NHL and NBA seasons for our customers. Here’s an excerpt from the letter:
“We will not remove MSG/MSG+ from our New York cable systems,” said Mike Angus, Senior Vice President, Content Acquisition for Time Warner Cable. “That ball is in MSG’s court, so these channels will come off only if MSG pulls the plug.”
“Time Warner Cable and our customers have stood by MSG and its teams through thick and thin,” Angus continued. “Our customers have paid whether the teams won or lost; they deserve better.”
“While we continue to work through this issue, we are offering to continue carrying MSG/MSG+ at a 6.5% increase through the end of the 2011-2012 NBA and NHL seasons,” Angus wrote in a letter to MSG Media President Michael Bair. “You have our commitment to work hard to reach an agreement that will assure our customers continued access to MSG’s teams for years to come.”
That’s where we are right now. If MSG vanishes, it’s not going to be us that pulls the switch – MSG will cease beaming their signals to the satellites that serve our customers. If it’s up to us, we’re going to settle this behind the scenes like a bunch of grownups.
If you care to follow this issue more closely and see news as it breaks, we’re posting as much as we can at TWC Conversations, our issues site.
And as always, we’ll keep you posted here and on Twitter as well.