Comcast drops MSG’s Rangers, Knicks games after saying almost no one watches them

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  • The broadcast deal between MSG and Comcast expired on September 30.
  • That means customers in New Jersey and Connecticut have lost access to upcoming Rangers and Knicks games.
  • Comcast said that MSG viewership was too low and that MSG is asking for too much money to grow the channel.
  • MSG said it wants a deal with Comcast that is in line with its deals with other carriers.

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The Madison Square Garden Network traded barbs with Comcast on Friday as two media companies dispute a rights charge that halted pro sports content on the service.

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The broadcast deal between MSG and Comcast expired on September 30, leaving sports viewers in the New Jersey and Connecticut areas without content from the New York Knicks and Rangers of the National Hockey League. Both are handled by MSG. The network also broadcasts Devils, Islanders and Major League Soccer games. The NBA season will begin on October 19, while the NHL season will begin on October 12.

MSG calls for failed talks “disappointing” An MSG statement to CNBC stated that Comcast claimed it “attempted to force us to accept terms they would never agree to for their own regional sports networks, including SNY in New York”. also includes.” SNY is another regional sports network that airs Mets MLB games.

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MSG’s statement also said that Comcast rejected similar offers from MSG’s deals with other carriers.

MSG Network has also put up a banner in its entire area. Website Warned consumers of disputes. The network is owned by Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp., which trades on the New York Stock Exchange and has a market cap of $2.4 billion.

It is unclear how much Comcast pays MSG to distribute its channels. Accordingly, the network generated total revenue of $166.1 million. fourth quarter earnings Report from last August. But the report noted that “affiliation fee revenue decreased by $9.7 million, primarily due to the impact of the approximately 7% subscriber reduction.”

CNBC’s parent company Comcast defended its decision to leave MSG. In a statement, it wrote its internal data show, “95% of all customers who received MSG in the past year watched no more than 10 of the approximately 240 games it aired.” Comcast does not serve New York City residents, who instead receive cable from companies including Charter, Altice USA, and Verizon.

Comcast said: “We don’t believe our customers should pay the millions of dollars in fees that MSG is demanding for some of the most expensive sports content in the country, which has an extremely small audience in our markets.”

On Xfinity’s website, company wrote It will reduce its Regional Sports Network (RSN) fee for customers in “Applicable Areas” affected by the decision to drop MSG Networks.

In media circles, this controversy could be a sign RSN and it could affect local supporter team revenue.

A new reality for RSNs?

The loss of Comcast viewers for MSG comes at a critical time for its Knicks franchise. The team made it to the NBA playoffs last season for the first time since 2013 and activated its fan base. But Comcast is no stranger when it comes to the turmoil about the RSNs that New York City teams have to offer.

In 2015 it spun off YES Network, which was co-owned by the Yankees. The channel eventually returned to Comcast in 2017. That dispute needed to be resolved because the Yankees are a premium sports brand based out of New York. and Major League Baseball games are the main blood vessel for the RSN.

NBC operates its RSN with SNY in New York and has properties in areas such as Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco. And Comcast renewed its deal with Google-owned YouTube to allow the service to continue streaming its NBCUniversal content.

Comcast, discussing the MSG controversy, longtime sports media rights consultant Lee Burke called the move a “risk” because there could be pushback from customers. But he also cautioned that the RSNs are in danger if they do not improve their strategy.

“The Comcast MSG position is more than a temporary situation,” Burke said. “This is a symptom of an ongoing, substantial problem for RSN to continue to gain distribution from pay-TV services as the pay-TV universe is shrinking.”

“The feeling (cable providers) is, ‘How many customers are we going to lose, which is that we have better margins by not taking these expensive RSNs,'” Burke said. “If the savings exceed the loss for customers, they will keep it.”

MSG doesn’t hold MLB games, so it can’t take advantage of that asset for sports marketers. And distribution took another hit with Comcast losing it. In 2010, MSG did not agree to terms with Dish Network, which resulted in it being removed from satellite service. The network is still not available on the service.

Dish has reduced its overall RSN offerings over the years. For now, it has stopped carrying AT&T-owned SportsNet and Root Sports, which just acquired the rights to the Portland Trail Blazers. And it took down NBC Sports properties last April.

“The current RSN model is fundamentally broken,” DISH President Brian Neylon said in a statement. last April. “This model requires almost all customers to pay for RSNs, when only a small percentage of customers actually watch them. As the cost of these channels continues to rise, we no longer think they should be included in our TV lineup. It makes sense to include in.”

Burke said RSN offerings will decline further in the coming years.

“When your pay-TV universe has shrunk to 100 million subscribers, to about 70 million or less – shrinking by about 8% per year – it becomes more and more difficult to maintain the same consistency as the channels you already have. is the past,” Burke said. “RSNs are increasingly feeling the heat and the brunt of these changes.”

Most of MSG’s customers are in the New York area, but losing Comcast viewers in surrounding areas impacts affiliate revenue and impressions—which can hurt ad sales. And Burke came up with more ways to watch hockey material.

“If you really want hockey, you have new packages with ESPN and TNT,” he said. “And 75 additional NHL games will be shown on ESPN+ and Hulu.”

Disclosure: Comcast owns CNBC’s parent company NBCUniversal.


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