Locked in a contract impasse with Dish Network, MSG Network and MSG Plus are offering subscribers to the No. 2 DBS service a chance to check out some of the teams the regional sports networks cover -- live.
Aimed at shut out Dish subscribers, "MSG's Watch it Live Sweepstakes" affords fans the opportunity to win tickets to New York Knicks National Basketball Association games, as well as National Hockey League contests involving the New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders and Buffalo Sabres.
The unusual tactic, involving the clubs the RSN holds telecast rights to, follows MSG and MSG Plus's disconnect with Dish that began on Oct. 1 over carriage fees.
Dish subscribers can visit IWANTMSG.COM to enter the sweepstakes to win tickets to see one of 14 games played by the teams live throughout the month of October. Fans can also visit the site or call 1-877-616-4MSG to receive a list of alternate providers in their area that carry MSG Networks.
The sweepstakes will be mentioned on the RSNs, as well as via social media, including MSG's Facebook page and via Twitter. Additionally, the clubs will tap their data bases to reach out to fans to get the message across.
MSG and MSG Plus will telecast nearly 400 live NBA and NHL games of the Knicks, Rangers, Devils, Islanders and Sabres during the 2010-11 seasons. The Devils open tonight against the Dallas Stars on MSG Plus, while the Sabres face off against Ottawa on MSG.
For their part, the Rangers start their 2010-11 season on Oct. 9 against the Sabres on MSG, while the Islanders host the Stars on MSG Plus that night.
The Knicks, featuring All-Star Amar'e Stoudemire, tip off their NBA campaign on October 27 at the Toronto Raptors on MSG.
"We understand Dish subscribers are upset with Dish's decision to drop MSG Network and MSG Plus, so we wanted to offer this opportunity for our displaced viewers," said Dan Ronayne, executive vice president and general manager, MSG Networks, in a statement. "Unfortunately, Dish has chosen not to come back to the negotiating table since they dropped our networks, but we continue to call on them to negotiate in good faith with us so that New York area sports fans can once again watch the teams they love."
Elsewhere, MSG continues to place ads in New York area newspapers, pointing out that Dish subs can no longer watch the Knicks, Rangers, Devils and Islanders contests, while including the aforementioned phone number and Web site to find alternate service providers. Similar ads delineating the absence of Sabres telecasts for Dish subs are running in upstate New York.
A spokeswoman for Dish said early Friday afternoon that: "We continue to negotiate with MSG and are hopeful we can reach a fair deal."
She also pointed to Dish's earlier statement about the RSNs seeking double-digit rate increases and linking their renewal to "carriage of a low-rated music video channel," Fuse, and MSG's refusal to accept its offer for an extension to keep the networks on while talks continued.
Dish, which operates www.GreedyMSG.com, said it is appealing to the Federal Communications Commission to prevent MSG from tying extraneous programming to carriage of its regional sports channels.
A spokesman for MSG responded later, saying that is "not about Fuse" and that "Dish is unwilling to negotiate. Dish has not made us one good faith proposal for any of our networks. Our offer is consistent with those made to other carriers."
The MSG spokesman maintained that "Dish is only hurting its customers, who are missing, starting tonight, the opening night of the NHL season. We encourage Dish subs, who are sports fans, to switch providers so they don't miss any of the action."