THE BUSINESS AND POLITICS OF SPORTS
Your cable TV bill will be rising in 2012 and beyond and there is a simple reason for that. Sports programming is about to become more expensive.
The local hikes will come shortly after the Madison Square Garden Network is back on Time Warner cable systems when the two sides reach a more expensive agreement for consumers. The hikes nationally will arrival when ESPN and other cable TV sports carriers renegotiate carriage deals. Regardless cable TV prices will be escalating.
Locally, the multiple systems operator (MSO) Time Warner doesn't want to live with the financial demands of the Madison Square Garden-FOX Sports Net combo at the moment. The MSG-FOX channels are owned by another MSO, Cablevision. The sports channels have disappeared from an estimated 2.3 million Time Warner subscribers in the metropolitan area and upstate New York. Meanwhile, Knicks, Rangers, Devils, Islanders along with a slew of college games are gone from the metropolitan area and Buffalo Sabres games have disappeared from upstate New York Time Warner systems.
As of now, those Time Warner subscribers have darkened channels, MSG, FOX Sports Net and a seldom watched music channel called Fuse. Whether Time Warner will pass along the decrease in expenses is an interesting question. Sports cable channels and MSOs who own sports networks (Time Warner is a minority owner in SNY, the outlet that is controlled by New York Mets ownership and Comcast, another MSO) generally don't provide refunds to consumers because of lost channels or lost sports events. such as the 240 canceled NBA regular season games this year due to the NBA owners’ lockout of the players.
There was also the entire 2004-05 National Hockey League season lockout. Consumers are still waiting for refunds from the 1998-99 NBA owners’ lockout, the 1994-95 NHL owners’ lockout and the 1994-1995 Major League Baseball Players Association strike.
The MSOs blithely and conveniently forget about those pesky labor situations and cable TV contract negotiations in customer relations.
Eventually Time Warner and Cablevision will cut a deal. Cablevision will jack up the wholesale price of MSG-FOX Sports Net and keep Fuse on Time Warner systems.
The cost will be passed onto consumers.
Consumers don't have much choice if they want to keep cable TV around as an entertainment option. Because of the 1984 federal legislation that socialized cable TV, cable TV operators don't have to be pro-choice.
A cable TV customer can take basic and add on a basic expanded tier where most of the sports channels have found a home. There are other add ons as well. The MSO bundles a bunch of networks together, generally ESPN and maybe even the rebranded NBC sports network (owned by Comcast) along with local regional sports channels and the so-called news channels, CNN, MSNBC and FOX and a bunch of others like the Cartoon Network, TNT, Comedy Center. The MSO gives the consumer no choice in selecting the product they want. The MSO is protected by federal law thanks to President Ronald Reagan's signature in 1984 and can act as a monopoly. The consumer can switch to satellite but generally runs into the same anti-choice problem.