On January 1, the MSG and Time Warner Cable dispute resulted in MSG Networks (MSG and MSG+) — and thus Knicks and Rangers games — no longer being shown on many TVs in New York City. Like any other Knicks fan or TWC subscriber, I shook my head and cursed the nature of cable disputes. Having suffered through a decade of terrible Knicks teams, I wasn’t all that upset at not being able to see the 2011-12 edition of the team as they slogged through the early schedule with an 8-15 record, especially while distracted by the NFL playoffs. But then the NFL season finished and Jeremy Lin burst on to the scene.
Over the last five games, Lin has done what neither Carmelo nor Amare, nor any other high profile Knicks acquisition has been able to do since Patrick Ewing was shipped out of town; he has made the Knicks appointment viewing. With MSG and TWC closing in on six weeks in their impasse, many Knicks fans can’t make that appointment, and either have to go elsewhere to watch the Knicks, wait until they have a nationally televised game, or not watch at all.
So it seems pretty clear cut, right? Knicks fans should side with MSG. They televise the games that we want to see, and Time Warner is not allowing them to be shown!
But the question you ask yourself should not be of MSG vs. Time Warner, but the Knicks vs. your cable bill.
According to the NY Times, SNL Kagan estimates that MSG’s monthly subscriber fee this year is $2.63 and MSG Plus’s monthly subscriber fee stands at $2.28, for a total of $4.91 per month. Bloomberg estimates those fees closer to $4.50 per month per subscriber. If you split the difference in those estimates, TWC subscribers are paying $4.70/month to watch Knicks and Rangers games, and that is before MSG’s reported demand of a 53% increase, which would bring the per month fee to a whopping $7.19 per subscriber.
If TWC cedes to MSG’s demands, subscribers are paying more than $86 per year to watch Knicks (and Rangers) games that aren’t nationally televised. If you are also clamoring for the NFL Network, at $0.84 per subscriber, positively a steal compared to MSG, you are adding another $10 per year. You are already paying $70/year for ESPN’s multiple platforms ($4.69 for ESPN and $1.13 for the other ESPN channels).
The Knicks have 23 games left this season on MSG this season, and 15 more nationally televised. So once again, never mind MSG vs. TWC, the real question is: how much is watching Jeremy Lin worth to you?