No Progress In Time Warner Cable, MSG Price Dispute

NEW YORK (AP) — As the glow fades from the Giants’ Super Bowl triumph, some New York sports fans are tuning in to basketball and hockey, with the Rangers in first place and the Knicks’ overnight sensation, Jeremy Lin, sparking “Lin-sanity.”

Others can’t. More than 2 million Time Warner Cable subscribers lost TV access to the NBA’s Knicks and the NHL’s Rangers, Devils, Islanders and Sabres on Jan. 1 because of a fight over rate increases between the cable giant and MSG Network. And dozens of college basketball games as well as boxing, soccer and sports talk shows have been blacked out too.

Perhaps worst of all for Time Warner subscribers, MSG Media President Michael Bair says the dispute could last through the end of the NBA and NHL regular seasons in April.

“We have not had any meaningful conversations in quite some time,” Bair said Thursday. “We have made numerous proposals for more than two years and they have rejected every single proposal.”

Time Warner spokeswoman Maureen Huff agreed that “there really hasn’t been any marked progress.”

Huff said MSG is demanding a 53 percent increase in the price Time Warner pays for its programming. Bair called that figure “simply incorrect” but didn’t say how large a hike MSG was seeking. MSG’s chairman, James Dolan, is also CEO of Cablevision.

The dispute affects subscribers in New York City, upstate New York and parts of Bergen and Hudson counties in New Jersey.

For Time Warner subscribers who follow the blacked-out teams, options include switching cable providers, watching at a bar with DirecTV or finding a website that streams the games illegally.

MSG owns the Knicks and Rangers as well as Madison Square Garden, where both teams play, and some fans are pointing fingers in that direction. One is even considering switching his allegiance to the Nets.

“It’s weird how they think they can treat fans this horribly,” said the Knicks fan, Wes Schierenbeck, 20, who lives in Brooklyn.

Schierenbeck has been watching the Knicks online and at friends’ houses. But those are stopgap measures, and the Nets, in comparison, grow more appealing: They will move from New Jersey to Brooklyn next season, and their games air locally on the YES Network and are not affected by the MSG dispute.

Just how much is he willing to put up with for the Knicks, he wondered.

Anthony Torres of Queens agreed.

“The owner doesn’t really care that he’s alienating the fans,” Torres said of Dolan. “The Garden is still selling out. And it’s almost like a stalemate.”

Others say there is blame to go around. “I blame Time Warner. I think they make enough money that whatever MSG’s asking for they can cover,” said Jeremy Eisman, 24, a Devils fan who lives in Manhattan.

While Knicks fans who subscribe to Time Warner missed Lin’s first starts, Rangers fans are missing a Stanley Cup contender.

“That’s basically the only reason that I subscribe to cable,” said Andrea Dulko, 28, of Brooklyn.

“It’s miserable,” said 25-year-old Manhattan resident Carl Tirella. “I’m a die-hard Rangers fan. I can’t watch any Rangers games. … I thought it was going to get resolved quickly but it’s been a month, a month and a half.”

MSG has sponsored viewing parties at bars to ease fans’ pain.

Buffalo Sabres President Ted Black appreciates the viewing parties and said MSG “is doing a lot in our community.” He believes it’s Time Warner that’s stalling and wishes the two sides would get back to the table.

“This is a real hockey town, and to take away something that everyone loves is cruel and unusual punishment,” Black said.

MSG also shows nearly 150 college basketball games a season.

Josh Culpo, 27, of Boston was in New York on Wednesday to watch his brother Mike play for Long Island University Brooklyn, which beat St. Francis, 86-77. Culpo said his parents are Time Warner subscribers and would like to watch Mike’s games, most of which are on MSG.

“They have to watch on a computer,” he said. “It’s not as good.”

Bair said fans should switch from Time Warner to another provider such as DirecTV, RCN or Verizon FIOS, and he said some are doing so.

“The distribution of other services is broader than you might think,” he said.

Huff said an “insignificant” number of Time Warner customers have left.

Those who have changed providers, or who have tried to, say it’s not that easy.

Rangers fan Desmond Lim switched to Verizon. “The install date was a month from when we placed the order,” he said.

Karl Stanton tried to switch but learned that FIOS isn’t available in his Manhattan building. He’ll shop for a FIOS-friendly building when his lease is up.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

  • Dondiego Nunziata

    I have no other option as I, like millions of NYers, live in an apartment building (meaning no satellite dishes allowed) and FIOS isn’t available in my area yet. Online streams are garbage, tiny screen, poor quality and a pain in the butt. I’ve grown up a Ranger fan and am desperately angry. I blame the NHL, NBA and MSG. How they can sit back and allow their teams (he Knicks and Rangers) who are owned by one cable company, use that leverage against another, is unforgivable and immoral. They’ll get what they deserve when they lose out on the opportunity to build a serious fan base (that they did in ’94 and have since lost due to lockouts and reed) and their leagues don’t get the revenue they could.

  • Steven

    GTF out of here. You’re seriously going to hold your allegiance to a cable company over that of your sports team? I wouldn’t call you a knicks fan, just a basketball fan, good riddance. Fortunately for you Nets tickets are also cheaper!

    • John Stevens

      I would hold an allegiance to a cable company over Jim Dolan who has DESTROYED both my favorite sports teams over the last 15 years.

      If MSG’s demand wasn’t for a 53% increase, then how come they won’t say what it WAS?

  • Amanda Rivera

    Greed is a biatch and it’s part of what has us in this mess. But, perhaps technology can help us overcome some of it. Magic Jack, (I’ve had it for over a year), has been a blessing, and perhaps some other geniuses out there will come up with similar gadgets, gizmos and whatchamacallits to help us deal with this constant garbage. Netflix was cool then they too got greedy. For sure MJ will get into a raise the rates yearly mode at some point. You can only spend so much freaking dough, man. You can’t take it with you, and aside from all the dumb toys the best things in life don’t cost much. There is the outside chance that perhaps, peeps will one day get tired of it all, and stop idolizing sports and find some other more productive and creative outlet for their energy and time.

    • Lakawak

      I hate to break this to you, but those sports teams are more valuable to the productivity of this country than you could EVER be. I nfact, I don’t care where you work, Jeremy Lin is more valualbe to YOUYR COMPANY than you are. You are easily replaced by the first semi-trained monkey thatthey could hire. But studies are REPEATEDLY shown that relaxed workers are more productive and that leisure activities like watching sports make workers more relaxed. Therefore, due to sports, every one of your co-workers is more productive, which increases value to your company moethan you working there does.



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