Time Warner, MSG Still Fighting Over Carriage Fees As Jan. 1 Deadline Nears
Time Warner Cable and MSG "have gone public in their current standoff that threatens the airing of Buffalo Sabres games for Time Warner customers starting Jan. 1," according to Gene Warner of the BUFFALO NEWS. Tuesday’s Buffalo News "carried a full-page ad, in the sports section, from MSG." The ad included a picture of Sabres G Ryan Miller above a headline that read: "Time Warner Cable Might Cancel Your Sabres Games." The ad "directs readers to a toll-free phone number, 1-888-SABRES3, and a website, KeepMySabres.com, which provide a petition and information on how to switch TV providers -- to FiOS or DirecTV." Time Warner issued a press release late Sunday "pledging not to take MSG off the air through the National Hockey League season." But Warner noted a closer reading of the release "shows there is no guarantee that Sabres games will remain on Time Warner early next year." A source Tuesday said, "These deals normally don’t get done until the 11th hour. I think it will get resolved (in time), and if it doesn’t, maybe it will cost viewers a game or two." The dispute "affects the airing of Sabres and New York Knicks games in Western New York." Downstate, the "contract flap could affect viewers of Knicks, New York Rangers, New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils games" (BUFFALO NEWS, 12/21). Meanwhile, Time Warner announced that it has "reached a long-term deal for continued carriage of NESN in its 6-state New England territory." The net is also available "to customers outside New England who receive NESN National or TWC's sports tier" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 12/22).
PACKAGE DEAL: TWC Chair & CEO Glenn Britt Wednesday said that sports channels "should be sold separately from the main cable-TV package of channels." Britt: "What was a minor problem is turning into an astronomical problem. The ultimate solution is to get that programming on some sort of smaller packaging scheme." The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Stewart & Schechner note shifting sports channels to a separate tier “would allow cable operators to shift the cost for sports channels to those sports fans who want the programs -- and cut the cable bills for nonsports fans.” But that idea “faces intense opposition from entertainment companies that own the channels.” Britt said that these “broader issues applied ‘100%’ to the dispute with MSG” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/22).