Sabres, Knicks Viewing Parties: MSG's Latest Play in TWC License Fee Dispute


As MSG Network aired the Jan. 3 NHL matchup between the Buffalo Sabres and Edmonton Oilers, executives at the programmer hosted a viewing party at a sports bar in the upstate New York city.
Dan Ronayne, executive vice president and general manager of MSG Networks, and other officials from the regional sports network distributed tickets and team merchandise, as well as information about alternate providers, at Tullys Good Times, where patrons watched the Sabres-Oilers telecast -- coverage they couldn't witness as Time Warner Cable subscribers.
The viewing party at Tullys, which features 98 TVs fed by DirecTV, was the latest  battleground in the license fee war between the RSN and Time Warner Cable, which resulted in the disconnection of the service, as well as sister service MSG Plus, on Dec. 31 over license fees. The RSNs present coverage of the NHL Sabres, New York Rangers and Islanders, and New Jersey Devils, as well as the NBA New York Knicks.

Next on the scorecard: viewing parties at four New York City locations on Jan. 4, when the Knicks host the Charlotte Bobcats at Madison Square Garden. Former Knick players and the club's City Dancers troupe are expected to make the scenes. The parties will take place at 7:30 p.m. at Snap Bar, Village Pourhouse and The Hill in Manhattan, and at Bootleg Mannings on Staten Island.
MSG officials will provide appetizers, as well as prizes and giveaways for Knicks fans, as they watch the game. They also will be available to help Time Warner Cable customers find other television providers that are available in their neighborhoods.
Since the new year dawned, Time Warner Cable subscribers in Buffalo, an estimated 330,000 in the DMA, as well as another 2 million in the New York City DMA and other parts of New York state, have not been able to watch the RSNs, after MSG Media pulled their signals. The parties, which had been negotiating on and off over the past two years, went public with the falling out in mid-December, following the nation's No. 2 MSO's drop of "lightly viewed" national music service Fuse from 8 million of its homes.
Since then, Time Warner Cable has stated the parties were near a deal in early December calling for a 6.5% monthly subscriber fee increase for the networks, plus fees for Fuse, before MSG Media upped the ante, seeking a 53% hike. MSG labels that figure as "greatly mischaracterizing" the situation and it is only asking the MSO to value its programming in the same way as other TV providers do.
Time Warner Cable, which is giving its customers a freeview of its sports package during January to help assuage the loss of the RSNs, said the parties have not spoken since Dec. 26. It replaced MSG with NBA TV on Jan. 1 and MSG Plus with NHL Network the following day.
Both parties continue to run media multimedia messaging stating their respective positions.