Don’t Let MSG Win

I have missed a lot over the past six weeks. I have missed the Rangers surge into the Eastern Conference lead and I have missed “Linsanity”.  Why have I missed all this?  Because Time Warner Cable and MSG Network can’t agree on a new programming deal and therefore the Knicks, Rangers, Islanders and Devils have disappeared from New York City TV’s.

It’s a somewhat surreal thing. The biggest story in sports is going on right in my backyard and unless I want to pay hundreds of dollars and see it personally, I am out of luck.  You walk into most bars and instead of a Knicks or Rangers game, you see whatever ESPN happens to be showing that evening. For six weeks New York City sports fans have lived in this cocoon and now comes word that things might be changing. I’m all for getting the games back on TV, but not if it means giving into MSG’s demand of a 53% increase (Yup you read that right)

I won’t pretend to like Jim Dolan and his methods, but this goes beyond that.  This goes to the simple fact that cable pricing is out of control. Now, I recognize that I am responsible for a large part of that. I am a sports fan and since the advent of the DVR, live sports programming has become the one thing that most people won’t tape and then watch. Because of this, rights fees have exploded and programmers who carry live sports have demanded higher and higher fees. The problem is, it has gotten to a crazy point.

Everyone wants their own network now. Look at New York. We have the Yankees and Nets on YES. We have the Mets on SNY. We have the Rangers, Knicks, Islanders and Devils on MSG. And while having those networks gives you access to most of those games, you still need ESPN, ESPN2, NBC Sports (nee Versus) TBS and TNT to make sure you don’t miss any of them. And that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what is happening out there in cable land. The Big Ten has a network, so does the Pac 10.  The University of Texas just created one, so you can see how this trend is exploding. If you are a sports fan, how many different things will you need to have access to in 10 years to watch the “big” games?

And here’s the other thing, sometimes you want these networks and sometimes you don’t. Once the regular season ends, you don’t need YES to watch the Yankees. You don’t need MSG to watch the Knicks. And from this season forward, NBC Sports (nee Versus) has the rights to all NHL playoff games from Round 2 onward, meaning MSG goes dark for Rangers fans sometime in late April.

If Time Warner Cable gives into MSG, everyone will see their cable bill jump a couple of bucks a month. Sure, I might be willing to pay that now, but what will that mean in a year or two when it comes time for ESPN to renegotiate their contract, or YES? The simple solution would be for cable consumers to have the right to pick and choose the channels they want. In a perfect world, I could stop paying for the channels I don’t watch (most of them) and only pay for the channels I do. I could also pick and choose according to the season. When November rolls around I stop paying for YES. When May comes, MSG drops off the bill. Despite various attempts to get to that point, we aren’t there yet.  For now, I can only hope that Time Warner Cable doesn’t cave in to MSG. It’s worth remembering that even without a resolution to this dispute 14 of the remaining 36 Knicks games and 12 of the remaining 27 Rangers games will be on TV in New York, thanks to all those other channels we pay for.

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  • blmeanie  On February 16, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    get one of these :

    send it to some friend (Mitchell?) with NBA Season pass, NHL version – etc. – voila, you would get the Knicks/Rangers/Devils games galore

    • nysportsfanatic  On February 16, 2012 at 4:42 pm

      Funny you should mention that. I was talking with Andy (from the other day and he suggested that same idea. Problem is, I am too cheap!

      If I am really desperate there are a few places online where people seem to be streaming NBA and NHL games.

  • Mitchell  On February 18, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    The Slinbox suggestion is a good one – another one is to look at MLB.TV. It’s only one sport, but it’s done well.

    The real issue for you, of course, is that the cable providers have to negotiate multiple contracts in order to deliver a single package to subscribers. It would be better for them – and you – if they offered these things in smaller/specialty packages. At some point, it’s all going to be pay-per-view with full season bundles specially priced.

    Time Warner’s biggest fear? The internet as delivery pipe. So MSG says, “here’s the deal, yes or no” to TW. If TW says no, then MSG starts MSG.TV and you, the content consumer, bypass MSG and get your content driectly from the internet. Content and pipes. Ahhhh … the painful joys of capitalism. LOL.

  • blmeanie  On February 18, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    I can’t wait for it all to flow through the internet. Deliver product that is wanted where it is wanted? Odd concept. For 22 years I have wanted NESN but have been unable to get it other than a hugely expensive package a while ago with lots of blackouts, lots of good that would do me.

    I don’t think mlb , nba, nhl passes are that appealing, again, overpay for the teams you want to see. I don’t want to see my non favorites in those leagues that often. The nfl is slightly different, the scheduling most games on the same day makes it an event each week.

    • nysportsfanatic  On February 20, 2012 at 3:25 pm

      I like the MLB package and still have it even though I can watch the Yankees locally without restriction. I just like baseball that much.

      As for the NHL and NBA packages, I totally agree. I had them when I lived in Boston, but dropped them when I moved back to New York. I think all the packages would be improved if they gave you the choice to watch the games with both the home and away feeds.

  • blmeanie  On February 20, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    i think I saw a headline that it is done, the games will be shown

    • nysportsfanatic  On February 21, 2012 at 12:22 am

      Yup, they are back, but interestingly we have no idea what the settlement terms were. The deal was struck after the market closed Friday, so watch the opening of “MSG” later today for a hint.

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