For Time Warner Cable and MSG, a Stand-Off With No End in Sight

And fans in the Buffalo market cannot tune into the .

The blackout is the result of a dispute that led to the disappearance of the MSG channels on Time Warner Cable, which has 1.7 million customers in the New York metropolitan area and upstate.

After 11 days, there appears to be little hope for a quick resolution — even as the Rangers hold the best record in the N.H.L. and the Knicks are on a three-game winning streak that gave them a 5-4 record.

“I’m paying $150 a month and I’m thinking of cutting the cord,” said Amit Klein, a Knicks fan from Brooklyn who watched a recent game on a pirate Web site that he learned about on Twitter. “It’s frustrating when you’re paying so much and there’s no legal way to watch the games.”

Meanwhile, MSG and Time Warner Cable have kept their feud bubbling in the news media through newspaper ads and radio and TV commercials and on Web sites created for the dispute ( and ), where MSG implores aggrieved fans to switch to DirecTV, RCN or Verizon FiOS.

The network has also invited fans to viewing parties in various cities where they can watch the games.

The two sides agree on little in a nasty squabble that has focused on what Time Warner Cable will pay MSG to carry the two regional sports networks in a new contract. MSG says that the cable operator, the nation’s second largest, has rejected all of its proposals for two years. Time Warner Cable says that MSG has twice reneged on a 6.5 percent rate increase and that its final demand was for a 53 percent boost.

“That’s just such a gross distortion of our conversations and it’s not anywhere close to what we’ve talked about,” said Mike Bair, the president of MSG Media. He added, “The sense of any movement to get the channels back on doesn’t exist.”

Mike Angus, a senior vice president of Time Warner Cable, said he was puzzled by the escalation of MSG’s pricing demands, which occurred after the N.B.A. lockout was resolved.

“It was an overnight call, ‘Sorry that offer isn’t on the table, here’s the new number,’ ” he said. “We’ve asked them why and they haven’t given us a real answer.”

He said, “MSG has its hand on the switch now.”

Local fans have seen sports channels blacked out before. And two companies controled by the Dolan family — Cablevision and its former subsidiary, Madison Square Garden — are always in the middle.

For 10 days in 2004, MSG and what is now called MSG Plus were removed from Time Warner’s systems. The next year, the fight resumed and ended only after a 63-day blackout. Cablevision refused to show the YES Network for all of 2002, its first year of Yankees broadcasts. And years before Cablevision acquired Madison Square Garden and its assets, it dropped MSG for 10 months between 1988 and ’89.

Over the past decade, the character of MSG and its sister channel, MSG Plus, formerly FSNY, has changed. MSG lost Yankee rights after the 2001 season when the team created YES. The Mets left the MSG fold after 2005 when the club set up its SNY network. Regional sports networks are generally anchored by at least 100 baseball games, which usually produce higher ratings than basketball and hockey games.

Yet MSG costs nearly as much as YES and a little more than SNY. According to SNL Kagan, a research firm, MSG’s estimated monthly subscriber fee this year is $2.63. YES’s is $2.99 and SNY’s is $2.55.

In addition, MSG Plus’s monthly subscriber fee stands at $2.28.

According to Lee Berke, the president of a media consulting company, Time Warner Cable would have had the contractual right to demand a reduction during their negotiations with MSG in 2005 when it was clear that the Mets’ departure would leave a sizable hole in programming in the spring and summer.

“At that point, if I was Time Warner, I’d have said, ‘You’re offering 120 fewer events, I should cut your fee by X percent,’ ” said Berke, a former MSG executive. “But that opportunity came and went.”

That earlier deal was , then New York State’s attorney general. In an interview on Tuesday, Spitzer said that he could not recall the details of the talks between MSG and Time Warner nearly seven years ago or why MSG is paid as if it still carried Mets or Yankees games.

“My objective was to bridge the chasm,” he said.

Angus, of Time Warner Cable, suggested that MSG may be seeking a Spitzer-like resolution in raising its current demands by more than eight times. Perhaps, he said, “the rationale for yanking their offer off the table and throwing up something extreme is that someone will step in and split the baby.”

But an MSG spokesman said that Time Warner’s account of its demands are “pure fiction.”

Whatever MSG’s demands are, it clearly values itself as an elite local sports network, even without Major League Baseball; it wants from Time Warner Cable fees like its rivals are paying. The price of MSG also reflects higher rights fees for the Devils since 2005 and the purchase of Sabres rights.

Derek Baine, a senior analyst as SNL Kagan, said also that the subscriber fees that are now being charged by MSG are determined in part by what it pays Cablevision to be seen by its customers.

“When you have related companies like Cablevision and MSG, you try to set the price high,” he said.

MSG also compares its impasse in New York to one in Los Angeles, where Time Warner Cable has bought the rights to Los Angeles Lakers games starting in the fall reportedly for billions of dollars over 20 years. Bair called it “confounding” that Time Warner Cable has made such a huge, market-altering investment in the Lakers yet “we are not talking about significant change in New York.”

A settlement might depend on finding a mutually agreeable definition of significant.

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