Time Warner Cable reiterated its pledge Sunday to not take MSG off the air through the NHL and NBA seasons. MSG is the TV home of the Buffalo Sabres.
"We will not remove MSG/MSG+ from our New York cable systems," said Mike Angus, senior vice president of content acquisition for Time Warner Cable. "That ball is in MSG's court."
"Time Warner Cable and our customers have stood by MSG and its teams through thick and thin," Angus continued. "Our customers have paid whether the teams won or lost; they deserve better."
"While we continue to work through this issue, we are offering to continue carrying MSG/MSG+ at a 6.5 percent increase through the end of the 2011-2012 NBA and NHL seasons," Angus wrote in a letter to MSG Media President Michael Bair. "You have our commitment to work hard to reach an agreement that will assure our customers continued access to MSG's teams for years to come."
Time Warner Cable asserts MSG is demanding a 53 percent increase in fees over what was paid in 2011.
"Programming costs are skyrocketing, and we work very hard to negotiate lower fee increases to keep our customers' bills as reasonable as possible. Fifty-three percent is not reasonable in anybody's book - I doubt many of our customers got a 53 percent raise this year," Angus said.
"We have been attempting to negotiate a new agreement with Time Warner Cable for close to two years, and are simply asking them to pay fair and reasonable rates that are consistent with what other providers pay for our programming - nothing more," Bair said Friday. "Unfortunately, Time Warner Cable is not interested in reaching a fair agreement, and, in fact, is not interested in conducting productive negotiations on behalf of its customers. Because of that, we suggest that our customers switch providers before Time Warner Cable pulls MSG's networks off its systems."
MSG is requesting carriage of Fuse as a condition to Time Warner Cable's distribution of MSG/MSG+, at a cost of millions of dollars. "Fuse is watched by fewer than one-tenth of one percent of the customers who have it available - that's just 4,000 customers out of more than 7.4 million," Angus said. "Asking our customers to pay millions for a channel they clearly don't want and don't value is nothing more than a tax on New York sports fans."
Fuse has aired specials on music stars Rihanna, Dave Matthews Band, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Linkin Park and Lady Gaga. The channel aired "Fuse Presents: Z100's Jingle Ball 2011 Live from Madison Square Garden," one of the country's biggest Christmas concerts, on Sunday.
"We are not giving up. We will continue to attempt to negotiate to reach a fair agreement that allows our fans to continue to enjoy their favorite teams until the last possible moment," Bair said. "But based on Time Warner Cable's unwillingness to even entertain our fair proposals, things don't look good."
"We're hopeful that MSG will put fans first and do the right thing for their viewers and our customers," Angus said. "We're willing to pay a reasonable increase and we're willing to keep the channels on while we negotiate. We are hopeful that we'll be able to reach agreement without putting New York sports fans in the middle of this dispute. We think these customers deserve better."