MSGN, FSNY Off Time Warner Systems

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Barring a settlement, New York Mets fans in Time Warner Cable’s New York-area systems will miss their first Madison Square Garden Network- or Fox Sports New York-televised game Tuesday after a contract squabble forced the removal of the two networks from the MSO Sunday morning.

Time Warner and Cablevision Systems Corp.-owned MSG Networks failed to reach a new agreement over licensing fees by the Sunday-morning deadline. The pact had originally expired Dec. 31, 2003, but the networks remained on the air as the parties continued to negotiate.

Along with the two sports networks, Cablevision’s MetroChannels were also removed. The move affects some 2.4 million Time Warner customers, including those in the Hudson Valley, as well as the upstate New York cities of Albany, Rochester, Syracuse and Binghamton.

In a statement released early Sunday morning, Time Warner said it will continue to press Cablevision to return the channels, and it will rebate its customers $2 per month while the networks are down.

“Cablevision refused to sign an extension allowing us to carry these channels while we worked toward a new long-term agreement, the statement said. “Cablevision has demanded unprecedented rates for programming that continues to diminish in value.”

MSG Networks president Mike McCarthy said in a statement also released Sunday that Time Warner Cable “has pulled the plug on its own customers, denying sports fans some of New York’s most valued and popular sports programming.”

McCarthy’s statement continued, “Time Warner Cable has rejected all offers to continue carrying MSG Network and Fox Sports New York with more than 400 live games from seven New York-area pro teams, 200 live college games and other top-rated local and national sports programming. We have offered fair and reasonable rates that are 30% below those that Time Warner Cable agreed to pay [Yankees Entertainment & Sports] Network. We call upon Time Warner Cable to end their outrageous anti-consumer behavior and immediately restore these popular channels.”