Madison Square Garden Network last week officially confirmed that it would expand to a 24-hour service beginning April 1, and that it would jointly carry New York Mets Major League Baseball games with Fox Sports New York.
As part of its programming expansion, the network will lengthen its local-news show, MSG SportsDesk, and add an "issues-oriented" late-night sports show and an afternoon "sports-talk" program.
The network, which had shared space with CNNfn on Time Warner Cable's 1.2-million-subscriber system in Manhattan, will now be available around the clock on Channel 27. (Other affiliates now receive a Fox Sports Net national feed when MSGN is dark.)
MSG Networks executive vice president Mike McCarthy would not comment on the network's future rate plans, but sources said MSGN would not increase its license fee of approximately $1.75 to $2 per subscriber for at least two years.
Despite the expansion in service, MSGN's rates will remain flat, due to the network's recent loss of New York Yankees baseball games — its primary spring and summer programming — to the upstart Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network.
The network will help to fill the Yankees void by moving 55 Mets games to MSGN from FSNY. The games will run on MSGN on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the season. MSGN president Seth Abraham said the network had the option of splitting Mets telecasts between the two networks as part of its long-term rights deal with the club, which expires at the end of the 2007 season.
MSGN has not decided whether to split New York Knicks National Basketball Association games with FSNY next season, Abraham said. FSNY's deal with the NBA's New Jersey Nets expires at the end of this season, and those telecasts may move to YES.
YES parent company YankeeNets LLC owns both the Yankees and the Nets.
Among the new MSG entries are Angles, a half-hour show focused on current local and national sports-news topics, and SportsTalk in the Afternoon, modeled after sports-talk radio shows.
While MSGN would not say who will host the show, sources said the network is talking to ESPN Radio about simulcasting parts of its afternoon radio sports-talk show featuring SportsCenter
anchor Dan Patrick.
MSG will also carry some games involving the Brooklyn Cyclones, the Mets' class-A minor league affiliate.
Not to be outdone, YES last week announced it would telecast nine live contests involving the Staten Island Yankees, the New York-Penn League rivals of the Cyclones.