MSG & Time Warner Reach Tentative Agreement to Capitalise on Lin’s Popularity

February 20, 2012

Jeremy Lin’s impressive performances have helped bring back pro basketball and hockey games back on cable TV.

MSG Networks and Time Warner Cable ended a 48-day impasse late Friday afternoon and reached a tentative agreement that enabled area cable subscribers to receive the regional sports networks in time for Friday night’s NBA and NHL games.

In separate news releases, both parties credited Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and NBA commissioner David Stern for “assistance (that) helped allow the parties to reach an agreement,” the MSG statement read. No terms of the agreement were disclosed, and neither company returned phone messages for elaboration.

Pressure on both sides had been building because of the recent emergence of Lin, a New York Knickspoint guard who went from an end-of-the-bench player to a national celebrity in a matter of days.

“Our office has worked diligently with Time Warner Cable and MSG Networks over the last month to bring about a resolution to their dispute,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “We are pleased that both parties have reached an agreement that will finally allow Knicks, Rangers, and Sabres fans to enjoy the rest of this season’s games.”

Games involving New York’s professional teams, as well as other network programming, had been blacked out since Jan. 1, when the previous contract expired. There had been no meaningful negotiations until the politicians began urging MSG executive chairman James Dolan and Time Warner CEO Glenn Britt to get a deal done.

Cuomo called each company’s top executives in the past two days, according to another state official. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because negotiations were private.

“I applaud both Mr. Dolan and Mr. Britt and their companies,” Cuomo said in a statement. “I thank them for being responsive to the needs of New Yorkers.”

Stern stepped in over the past two days, telling the sides how important it was to get Lin back on TV for both parties, for the league and for basketball itself, said one person close to the talks who requested anonymity.

MSG’s ratings for the six Knicks games in which Lin has started have increased 109 percent, according to the network.

ESPN had its biggest regular-season Friday night audience so far this season, 34 percent above the average with 3 million viewers, when Lin outscored Kobe Bryant with 38 points to beat the Lakers on Feb. 10.

The agreement calls for the cable company to carry not only MSG and MSG+ but also Fuse, a music network that Time Warner senior vice president Mike Angus said in the days during the blackout “is watched by fewer than one-tenth of 1 percent of the customers who have it available.”

by Ismail Uddin