MSG-Time Warner Cable End License Fee Dispute


The license fee dispute between MSG Media and Time Warner Cable that had kept two regional sports networks dark on the MSO's systems since Jan. 1. has been resolved.

The parties reached a tentative, verbal agreement Friday afternoon, ending the 48-day impasse. The pact, terms of which were not disclosed, came in time for Time Warner Cable to receive MSG and MSG Plus's presentations of New York Knicks, Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils telecasts on Feb. 17. The deal was finalized later that night.

The deal also restored national music network Fuse to some 7.4 million of the nation's No. 2 cable operator's subscribers. Time Warner Cable dropped Fuse on Dec. 16.

MSG Media and TWC issued a joint statement thanking "Governor Andrew Cuomo for his leadership in helping us resolve this matter. We would also like to thank Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and NBA commissioner David Stern, whose assistance helped allow the parties to reach an agreement. We are committed to providing our fans with award-winning programming that continues to warrant their loyalty and allegiance, and we thank them for their patience."

MSG and sister service MSG Plus, which also covers New York Islanders NHL contests, had been dark on Time Warner Cable systems throughout 2012 after the parties couldn't reach a new deal and the RSNs pulled their signals on Jan. 1 from TWC, which counts some 2.3 million subscribers in the state, including 1.1 million in New York City.

Jeremy Lin

There apparently hadn't been any meaningful conversations between the MSO and RSNs since late last year until Feb. 13, when TWC chairman and CEO Glenn Britt and Cablevision president and CEO James Dolan met. Dolan also serves as executive chairman of MSG Media, whose holdings include the RSNs and the Knicks. MSG Media was spun off from Cablevision last February.
The New York Times reported that a settlement had been urged by Schneiderman, with Cuomo intervening over the past 24 hours with Dolan and Britt.
Pressure had been ratcheted upon the programmer and distributor over the past week or so as point guard Jeremy Lin has become an international "Linsation," leading the Knicks on a seven-game winning streak and stoking MSG ratings to season highs during each of its last three telecasts.

Time Warner Cable has claimed that an agreement calling for a 6.5% increase in monthly subscriber fees had been reached in early December, before MSG upped its ask to a 53% hike. MSG has maintained those ratios are a "mischaracterization."

SNL Kagan estimates that MSG draws a monthly subscriber license fee of $2.48, while pegging MSG Plus's take at $2.17.
For their part, the politicians issued their own statements.  "I applaud both Mr. Dolan and Mr. Britt and their companies," said Cuomo. "I thank them for being responsive to the needs of New Yorkers."

 Noted Schneiderman: "Our office has worked diligently with Time Warner Cable and MSG Networks over the last month to bring about a resolution to their dispute. We are pleased that both parties have reached an agreement that will finally allow Knicks, Rangers, and Sabres fans to enjoy the rest of this season's games."

City Council speaker Christine Quinn also chimed with a nod to Linsanity and the other team, MSG covers, the New York Ranger. "I want to thank the MSG-Network and Time Warner Cable for coming to a deal that will put the Knicks and the Rangers back on TV," she said. "Now, a million more New Yorkers will be able to go Linsane in the privacy of their own living room. I'm looking forward to watching the return of Carmelo Anthony for the Knicks and Henrik Lundqvist in goal for the Rangers."
With ‘Linfatuation' in full court press mode, MSG's Feb. 15 telecast of the Knicks' 100-85 blowout of the Sacramento Kings marked its third consecutive season-high rating, dunking a 5.78 Nielsen household rating, translating into 427,015 households in the New York DMA, according to Nielsen data. That delivery, sans any Nielsen contribution from Time Warner Cable homes, ranked as the highest-rated Knicks game on MSG since Carmelo Anthony's debut on Feb. 23 last season netted a 6.75 household rating and 507, 285 households.
Through six games -- all Knicks wins -- in which Lin has been the starter, the Knicks' average household rating on MSG increased 109% to a 3.79 rating and 279,998 households, compared to the previous 20 games, when the RSN tallied a 1.81 and 133,719 households. The winning streak also spurred a 69% increase in the average season-to-date household rating compared to the first 26 games on MSG last season: a 2.27 compared with a 1.34 and 167,703 households against 100,705 households.
Over those six games. MSG recorded a 67% increase over the average 2011-12 season-to-date household rating -- a 3.39 mark versus a. 2.13, with 279,998 households compared with 167,703.