SBD/February 20, 2012/Media

New York Gov. Cuomo Says Fans' Clamoring For Lin Forced MSG, TWC Deal

Lin's popularity helps intensify calls for TWC, MSG to end 48-day carriage dispute
Time Warner Cable and MSG have settled their 48-day carriage dispute, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo acknowledged Knicks fans’ clamoring to see Jeremy Lin play "'heightened the pressure' on MSG and Time Warner Cable to reach an agreement," according to Beck & Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. Cuomo said on WOR-AM Friday, "It is not good to annoy consumers." Execs from the companies had "not talked since December until a meeting Monday at Time Warner’s offices" between Knicks Owner and MSG Exec Chair James Dolan and TWC President, Chair & CEO Glenn Britt. Cuomo on Wednesday "called both men." A source said that Cuomo told Britt, "The team is hot ... and it’s in your best interests to make a deal." Dolan and Britt "met again Friday at the Garden headquarters." Their tentative, oral deal "came in time for Time Warner customers to see the Knicks play the Hornets" at 8:00pm ET Friday on MSG and for the Devils’ 7:00pm game against the Ducks on MSG Plus. Beck & Sandomir noted financial terms of the agreement were not announced. LHB Sports Entertainment & Media President & CEO Lee Berke said, "Time Warner lost control of the story when Chinatown couldn’t see Jeremy Lin. The single greatest investment MSG ever made was picking up Jeremy Lin’s contract" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/18). In N.Y., Nina Mandell cited sources as saying that Cuomo "got involved by phone in the deal over the past few days, which helped give the deal a final push through." New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has also "been involved over the past few weeks." After weeks of silence "towards each other, the two sides said they began talking again" last week. One industry exec said, "I'm not surprised if politicians got involved that it got done. I'm more surprised that it went so many weeks without any conversations. And then this kid Lin comes along and he really is the catalyst to all this because it's never about terms of these deals it's only about the money and you would have thought they would have figured out a way to get it done sooner" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/18).

CONSUMER DEMAND: MSG said Friday that it had "reached a tentative deal to put Knicks games back on television for some" 2 million TWC subscribers in the N.Y. area. A state official said that Lin's "phenomenal run forced the deal, along with the recent play of the Rangers." A source said that NBA Commissioner David Stern also "stepped in over the last two days" (AP, 2/17). In N.Y., Atkinson & Soltis noted since MSG was taken off TWC on Jan. 1, the cable company’s 2.8 million subscribers "missed a total of 149 Knicks, Devils, Rangers and Islanders games." Sources said that TWC was "overwhelmed with phone calls" Friday from subscribers "demanding a rebate for the lost MSG games" (N.Y. POST, 2/18). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's William Launder noted Nielsen figures indicated that the average number of households "watching Knicks games nearly doubled last week to 227,360 from 114,019." Ratings are "up more than" 130% compared with the "same point of last season" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/18).
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