NYC: Time Warner Cable should reimburse customers


Because of its ongoing dispute with programmer Madison Square Garden Co., New York City Comptroller John Liu said Time Warner Cable should reimburse customers who are missing New York Knicks and Rangers games.

Said Liu in a statement: “New Yorkers deserve to get what they pay for. This ongoing corporate dispute does nothing more than unfairly punish their customers and City residents. What started as a blackout of the Fuse channel has now escalated to the MSG sports networks [MSG and MSG Plus], causing nearly 2 million customers to be without access to their beloved Knicks and Rangers. We have asked the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications to step up and hold the company accountable and make sure it reimburses subscribers for the loss of these channels. Anything less is unacceptable.”

The Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications is the city agency that regulates cable franchise contracts. The two cable nets carry the NBA’s Knicks and the National Hockey League’s New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils. TWC customers lost access to MSG Network 1/1 after the two sides failed to negotiate new contract terms.

MSG was asking Time Warner Cable to pay a 53% price increase for the right to carry its programming, says Mike Angus, a Time Warner Cable SVP. However, MSG Media President Mike Bair told Bloomberg the claim was a “gross mischaracterization.”

The comptroller’s office didn’t offer specifics on how Time Warner Cable might reimburse customers, who don’t pay a separate charge for MSG and MSG Plus. The channels are part of TWC’s expanded basic package.

TWC has already replaced MSG with NBA TV and MSG Plus with NHL Network, two channels that typically would require customers to pay $5.95 a month for access, Alex Dudley, a spokesman for Time Warner Cable, said. “We at Time Warner Cable think that all New Yorkers can agree that a 53% price increase is way out of line.”

RBR-TVBR observation: TWC customers certainly have the right to cancel their cable and/or expanded basic package over this, but forcing reimbursements this early in the game seems premature. Should cable companies reimburse subscribers over the lost games of the 2011 NBA lockout? We think not. TWC is supplying sports programming on those channels until things are worked out—and besides, MSG and MSG Plus are not specifically charged as premium channels anyway.