Time Warner Cable may axe MSG


NBA fans just can’t catch a break–at least not in the NYC area. After a lockout that nixed a quarter of the pro B-ball season, New York fans may lose out on Knicks games if Madison Square Garden’s MSG Network and Time Warner Cable can’t work out a new deal.

Their contract expires at midnight on Jan. 1. The regional sports network, which also airs Rangers games, is available to about 2 million Time Warner Cable customers. The last time the two locked horns, in 2005, MSG went dark for two months.

Cable and satellite companies pay on average $2.48 per subscriber a month for MSG and another $2.17 for MSG Plus, said the NY Post.

A source told the paper that the two are far apart on a deal, with MSG looking for a per-subscriber increase of a couple of dollars. That would put the MSG networks in the same ballpark as sports powerhouse ESPN, which gets $4.69 a subscriber.

The push for a la carte
One shining light on this subject is ESPN’s fairly recent $15.2 billion, eight-year rights extension deal with the NFL for “Monday Night Football.” Starting in 2014, ESPN’s new NFL deal is costing a reported 73% more over its existing deal, which ends in 2013. DISH Network has threatened to drop ESPN because of it.

“We feel that some of those expensive channels should be offered a la carte so only those people who want to watch them actually pay for them,” said Jerry Kent, chief executive of Suddenlink, which has 1.3 million cable customers.

Rocco Commisso, chief executive of Mediacom, which has 1.2 million subscribers, sent a letter to FCC Julius Genachowski earlier this year that suggested “instituting a carefully designed a la carte system, so that decisions about what video services are bought are made by consumers themselves, rather than by content owners.”

RBR-TVBR observation: The last thing MSOs want to do these days is increase rates. They know that each time they do, it triggers a good deal of cord-cutting from consumers already cash strapped. The only thing they can do is put these high-priced sports (and some others) networks on separate, premium tiers and let the subscribers who want them, pay the extra dough.