December 19, 2011

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Relax – We’re Not Going to Pull the MSG Network

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.


  1. Gary's reply

    Please, please, PLEASE.
    Stop bundling channels like this into standard service tiers, make them premium so price hikes like this only effect those whom actually want these expensive sports stations.

  2. James's reply

    @Gary- why don’t we just have all channels you don’t like premium because its convenient to you? I’m sure there are channels you like that I would love to not pay for. Just because you don’t like MSG and MSG+ doesn’t mean people that do should pay extra.

  3. Jesenia's reply

    I agree James. And I happen to like both channels Fuse and Msg. I don’t think Both parties are being fair to twc customers I just got time warner 2 wks ago and I already regret it. With Directv. if you had Starz and HBO. They throw in Encore for free ! and The Fox movie channel was consider standard not premium!Now they don’t carry fuse and want to remove MSG.Just keep both channels twc. And you’ll see how many people would like your network again, if not you will lose alot of money and customers ..Keep MSG And bring back Fuse. Stop being stingy. and Msg don’t be cruel either.

  4. choppa's reply

    make all channels pay per view…that way I could only watch what I want to…which is very little anyway

  5. Jason Schwartz's reply

    I’m actually on the other side.. don’t watch FUSE (or MTV/VH1 for that matter) but I understand why bundles are created. It lowers the cost for everyone by spreading the costs over many more people. I’m sure people ar epaying for channels I watch but they don’t as well. Eventually it would be great to pay for only that which you think you’ll watch but eventually you’ll say “why don’t I have that channel”.

    Personally if Fuse wasn’t on, I wouldn’t miss it but I will be ticked off if I can’t watch MSG (NY Rangers specifically). Ironically Cablevision has been fighting Verizon to carry MSG HD and MSG+ HD but now they want us to switch to them because they are fighting with TWC. The winds of change are blowing in the other direction now… (BTW – What happened to the additiona of MSG2HD and MSG2+HD… I Guess the announced launch was premature based on this disagreement…)

    However you look at it, customers are the ones who lose.

    Can we get NESN in NYC? Even if live games are blacked out, it would be cool to have the out of town sports networks (like Directv).

  6. Gary's reply

    @James- Because the sports channels are the most expensive ones in the standard tier. With your logic HBO, Showtime, Etc. should also be included.
    It’s not convenience, it’s economics.

  7. Daymon's reply

    I’m with Gary. Sports should be premium tier, because they are special interest. I only watch sports on my local channels, so I’m paying extra so everyone else can have the dedicated sports channels. You want sports, you flip the bill.

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