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Sports lovers cry foul after MSG blackout


| brennison@queenscourier.com


If a game is played and no one is able to watch it, did it really happen?

More than one million sports fans have faced off with this problem after MSG was dropped from the Time Warner Cable lineup on January 1.

The sports network and Time Warner are more than two weeks into their standoff leaving Knicks, Rangers, Islanders and Devils fans in the lurch.

The dispute is over licensing fees that cable companies pay networks in order to carry their channel.  MSG wants more than Time Warner is offering and Time Warner is not willing to pay what MSG is asking.

Time Warner’s senior vice president, Mike Angus, said the two companies reached a deal last year that was agreed to by both sides — but claimed MSG reneged on the deal.

The network said that Time Warner rejected every offer made over two years — never having a deal in place.

While talks have broken off, Time Warner spokesperson Eric Mangan said the company is waiting for MSG to come back to the negotiating table.

“It’s all propaganda. Obviously in commercials Time Warner and MSG are going to say the opposite of each other. Is it really a 53 percent increase, is it not? Who knows? It’s all slanted one way or another,” said Queens resident Steven Cohen, referring to Time Warner’s claim that MSG asked for a 53 percent increase in their licensing fee.

The cable company called MSG’s demands way out of line.  “We are looking out for the interests of out customers,” a spokesperson said.

“All we have asked is for Time Warner Cable to value our programming in the same way as other TV providers — nothing more, nothing less,” MSG Media President Michael Bair said.

MSG is owned by Madison Square Garden, Inc. which is chaired by Knicks and Rangers owner James Dolan.

The city’s comptroller called a foul on Time Warner for blacking out city sports fans.

“As this dispute continues, 1.3 million city residents are left without the programming they paid for,” Comptroller John Liu said.  “The least they could get is a break on their cable bill.”

Liu sent a letter to Glenn Britt, CEO of Time Warner Cable, urging the company to rebate $5.95 — the price of the Time Warner Cable Sports Pass.

“I pay all that money for cable so I could watch the Knicks, and now they say I can’t,” said Knicks fan Chris Lerner as he waited for the LIRR in Bayside.  “Going to games isn’t an option because tickets are through the roof. How much money does MSG need?”

“Customers are understandably frustrated that they are forced to pay for channels they do not receive, particularly when many customers do not have access to another cable television provider,” Liu wrote in the letter.