Deal Expires: MSG Pulls Networks from Time Warner
For the bulk of the Capital Region, judgement day has come and passed. The deadline for Time Warner Cable and Madison Square Garden to reach a new agreement without MSG being pulled from the cable service provider’s cable line up went quietly last night. As a result, the bulk of our area is now without MSG and MSG+
If you awoke on this fine New Year’s morning to find that the channel usually occupied by MSG had been replaced by a Time Warner Cable sponsored infomercial, then you my friend have become a casualty of the stare down between two media giants. Time Warner Cable and Madison Square Garden have been negotiating a new deal for nearly two years now without success. Two weeks ago the feud took on a public life when both sides began pleading their case to the public.
Time Warner Cable was repeatedly quoted as saying that the two sides were close to a deal that would have called for a 6.5% price increase for Time Warner, a deal that Time Warner would have accepted. They claim they were never given that chance, however, that MSG abruptly reneged and began demanding a 53% price increase. MSG has countered by noting that they are merely asking Time Warner, the same company that just paid a reported five billion dollars to gain the television rights of the Los Angeles Lakers, to pay the exact same rates that other service providers are currently paying.
With no deal reached, much of the Capital Region has now lost regular coverage of the Knicks, Rangers, Devils, Islanders and Sabres for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, neither side has expressed optimism that a deal will be reached any time soon. In fact, prior to the New Years Eve deadline, both sides warned that these negotiations could run through the remainder of the NHL and NBA seasons. In press releases both sides have blamed the other. MSG stated in their release, “In the end, [TWC] 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. We certainly hope Time Warner Cable returns to the negotiating table and reconsiders our good faith proposals. Until that happens, we encourage Time Warner Cable subscribers to switch providers by calling 888-keepmsg (533-7674) or visiting keepmsg.com.”
Time Warner Cable answered with some fiery rhetoric, stating in their release, “Despite agreeing to the asked for 6.5% price increase on rates that MSG themselves deemed as fair market rates just last year, MSG reneged on the deal and instead, demanded a whopping 53% increase and refused to negotiate further. We hate that our customers have been put in this terrible position, and MSG has offered no credible explanation as to why they suddenly need a 53% increase over last year’s rates. Perhaps after renovating the Garden they are looking for New York sports fans to fund renovations of the Forum they recently purchased in Los Angeles. Who knows, but if they have substantial new funding needs, that’s what banks – not our customers – are for.” Time Warner, much the way MSG had, then did their best to provide a solution, closing the press release by saying, “To offset a little of the disappointment caused to our customers by MSG’s decision to take away their programming, Time Warner Cable announces a special month-long freeview of Time Warner Cable Sports Pass, a package of more than 15 sports-oriented channels that normally retails for residential customers at $5.95 per month. The freeview will be available from January 1 – 31, 2012. A list of channels included in the Time Warner Cable Sports Pass and eligibility requirements can be found at www.TWCConversations.com/MSG .”
And so the blame game begins, with both sides vying for your support, both sides trying to cast themselves the role of fan advocate and their opponent the unreasonable villain. To me it all just sounds disingenuous. I have a hard time feeling sympathy for two, what I’m guessing would have to be, multi-billion dollar companies whose squabbles over money have negatively effected me. Let’s face it folks. It’s likely that neither side will be declared the “winner” in this fight between Time Warner Cable and Madison Square Garden, but we – the fans – are unequivocally the loser. Hopefully both sides will put aside the bickering, come together and make a deal before our teams’ seasons are over with.