SBJ/November 28-December 4, 2011/Media

MSG Net in carriage talks with TWC

MSG Network’s carriage deal with Time Warner Cable expires at the end of this year, not ideal timing as the Knicks’ regional sports network is negotiating a deal in the middle of an NBA lockout that is threatening the entire basketball season.

But sources said that despite that possible void in programming, the two sides have had productive talks so far and have traded proposals.

Sports media veterans are keeping an eye on these talks, which will mark Time Warner Cable’s first RSN renewal since it jumped into the NBA rights game in a big way earlier this year by picking up the Lakers’ local rights. Published reports have said the deal averages out to $200 million over 25 years.

Time Warner Cable has had notable disputes with sports channels, like NFL Network and Tennis Channel, mostly over the cost and placement of such services. But now that it is a player in local NBA rights, it will be interesting to see how Time Warner Cable handles negotiations for the local rights holder of the Knicks, which is as dominant a basketball brand in New York as the Lakers are in Los Angeles.

Complicating matters a bit is the fact that the Mets’ RSN, SportsNet New York, will see its carriage deal with Cablevision end early next year, just before baseball season starts.

Time Warner Cable owns close to a 25 percent stake in SNY. But Comcast, which holds an 8 percent stake in the RSN, is responsible for its affiliate sales.

Combined, distributors pay less for MSG Network and MSG Plus ($4.91 per subscriber per month) than they do for a combined rate of New York’s other two regional sports networks, YES Network and SportsNet New York ($5.54), according to figures from SNL Kagan.

In 2012, distributors are scheduled to pay $2.63 per subscriber per month for MSG and $2.28 for MSG Plus. SNL Financial has YES Network at $2.99 and SportsNet New York at $2.55.

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