Cable Operators

Mets Take Early Lead vs. Cablevision

10/28/2004 6:52 AM Eastern

Both the Mets and the New York State Supreme Court responded Thursday to Cablevision Systems Corp.’s Madison Square Garden Networks unit’s lawsuit against Major League Baseball’s New York Mets, filed Wednesday.

At a hearing Thursday morning, Justice Helen E. Freedman denied Cablevision's request for a temporary restraining order against the Mets' plans to grant their telecast rights for 2006 and future seasons to the new regional sports network formed recently by Sterling Entertainment Enterprises LLC, Time Warner Inc. and Comcast Corp.

However, MSGN said in its own statement, “The court has scheduled a hearing for Nov. 17 to consider MSG Networks’ motions.”

And the Mets responded Thursday morning with a prepared statement: "We received notice today from MSG Network that they are seeking to prevent us from following through on our intention to grant television rights for 2006 and future seasons to the new regional sports network formed by Sterling Entertainment Enterprises LLC, Time Warner Cable and Comcast Corp.”

The statement continued, "The lawsuit is entirely without merit, and we will contest it vigorously. Under our television-rights agreement with MSG, either party could terminate the agreement early upon making a $54 million buyout payment. We exercised this right in May 2004, and Cablevision publicly acknowledged that we had done so. At that time, we stated publicly that we would 'actively explore all options concerning the telecast of Mets games for the 2006 and future seasons.' This was no surprise to Cablevision, which had every opportunity to strike a deal with us. Having failed to do so, they chose to file a disingenuous and vindictive lawsuit.

The Mets' statement concluded, "The Mets' conduct is in complete compliance with our rights and obligations under the agreement with MSG. The MSG allegations have no factual support, and their legal claims are baseless.

MSGN filed suit against the Mets Wednesday in a bid to prevent the team from pulling its games from MSG.

The Mets’ plan, announced earlier this month, was a major blow for Cablevision, which had previously lost its valuable New York Yankees rights to Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network and would be left with little programming to distribute on MSG and Fox Sports New York.

Even though the Mets paid MSGN and FSNY $54 million in June to end a rights deal after the 2005 baseball season, MSGN claimed Wednesday that the team breached its contract.

“By agreeing to form another network more than one year before the termination of that agreement, the Mets have flagrantly violated our rights under the agreement,” MSGN said in a prepared statement.

Despite the $54 million buyout, a source said, MSGN has a clause in its rights deal that prohibits the Mets from transferring games to any other network before Nov. 1, 2005.

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