Mets Opt Out of MSGN Deal


Cable operators in the New York area may have to absorb yet another regional sports network beginning in 2006, as Major League Baseball’s New York Mets Monday decided to opt out of the team’s multiyear agreement with Madison Square Garden Network.

The club exercised an option under its 1996 rights agreement with MSGN-owned Fox Sports New York that allows it to terminate the deal at the end of the 2005 season, according to MSGN officials.

MSGN -- which received a $54 million buyout payment from the Mets to terminate the deal -- currently splits 100 Mets telecasts between FSNY and MSGN.

The Mets have made noise in the past about starting their own regional sports network, especially after watching crosstown rivals the New York Yankees successfully launch Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network. Mets officials could not be reached for comment.

LHB Inc. president Lee Berke -- who has consulted with several pro-sports clubs seeking to start stand-alone networks -- believes the Mets will aggressively explore the option of creating the team’s own regional sports network, but the New York market will not support four regional sports networks.

For MSGN's part, it hopes to negotiate a new agreement with the team. If it loses the Mets, the two networks would only have New York Liberty Women’s National Basketball Association games to fill their pro-sports summer-programming schedules.

“As is the case with all team rights negotiations, this is a process that we hope and expect will result in a continuation of the long-standing partnership between the New York Mets, MSG and Fox Sports Net New York,” MSGN president Mike McCarthy said in a prepared statement.