TWC, MSG have a handshake agreement


The retransmission consent battle being fought in Washington concerns broadcasters v. MVPDs, but the biggest dispute of late has not involved broadcasters at all. But it now appears that Time Warner Cable and Madison Square Gardens have an agreement that will put sports programming – including high interest New York Knicks Basketball – back on the cable system.

TWC said the two parties had a verbal agreement. It said, “MSG will return to Time Warner Cable’s lineup in time for tonight’s Knicks, Sabres and Devils games. Time Warner Cable expressed appreciation for the concern and encouragement provided by Governor Andrew Cuomo, as well as New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and NBA Commissioner David Stern.”

The loss of MSG programming to TWC subscribers dates back to the beginning of the new year. It has become increasing a high profile dispute because of the sudden spike in interest in the Knicks due to the emergence of Jeremy Lin, who has come off the team’s bench to become a sudden star in the NBA.

Lin has quickly become the nation’s most visible athlete of Asian extraction, and interest in his rise to stardom is said to be especially keen in New York’s Chinatown area, according to the New York Times – and that happens to be one of the deprived areas served by TWC.

RBR-TVBR observation: People might want the programming offered by MSG, but they need the programming provided by broadcasters. Very few cable-only program services offer local news and information on a daily basis, and emergency information when needed. The government shouldn’t be poking its nose into these negotiations in either case, but the one service that has the kind of public interest value worthy of government protection is broadcasting. MVPDs should simply get used to it and bargain for a fair price.