MSGN Pulls Regional Nets from Time Warner


Cablevision Systems Corp. Tuesday morning pulled its two regional sports networks, Madison Square Garden Network and FSN New York, from Time Warner Cable area systems after the two sides failed to reach a carriage deal before a March 7 midnight deadline expired.

The network blackouts mean that 2.3 million New York-area Time Warner subscribers will potentially miss the final month of New York Knicks National Basketball Association telecasts, as well as New York Mets Major League Baseball games.

In a Monday-night statement confirming the removal of the two networks, along with three Fox College Sports digital networks, MSGN said Time Warner declined to keep the games on while the two sides met with an independent arbitrator.

“We are still prepared to live by the decision of an arbitrator, and we call on Time Warner Cable to agree with us to binding arbitration and give the fans back their games," the statement said.

A Time Warner spokesman said binding arbitration would set a bad precedent for the cable industry, adding that such a deal could open a Pandora’s box of similar MSO-network arbitration scenarios that could eventually drive up consumer cable rates.

“Binding arbitration has proven to be the fuel contributing to the skyrocketing costs of professional sports,” a Time Warner spokesman said. “It would be irresponsible for us, our customers and our shareholders.”

An independent arbitrator last year settled the bitter carriage dispute between Cablevision and Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network, forcing the MSO to place YES on its basic tier.

The Mets are in the last year of the team’s deal with MSGN, and the club is expected to team up with Time Warner Cable and Comcast Corp. to launch a new regional sports network in 2006.

Time Warner has replaced MSGN and FSNY with NBA TV and College Sports Television, respectively. In addition, the network will provide $2 in rebates per month to subscribers while the networks are off.

Time Warner continues to balk at a proposed $4 for both MSGN and FSNY -- an increase over the $2.90 monthly subscriber fee paid to Cablevision as part of a deal that expired last December.