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Feud between Comcast, MSG Community hurting native sports activities followers

Jason Deger is not a cord-cutter. He needs cable. He needs broadband. He needs to observe the Knicks and Devils.

He cannot have all these items.

“It is irritating,” Deger says. “You pay god is aware of how a lot cash for it and you continue to cannot get the channels you wish to have. But I get 100 different channels I’d by no means placed on my TV.”

Deger resides in a condominium improvement in East Brunswick, NJ, the place the cable supplier is Comcast or transfer elsewhere. When MSG Community was dropped from Comcast a 12 months in the past, Deger started calling the supplier.

I’ve acquired nowhere. So I’ve stopped. The 42-year-old now conceded to a second straight season of solely occasional nationwide TV video games that includes his favourite groups, as discussions between MSG Community and Comcast have not budged from a contentious stalemate.

“It stinks. I have been watching the Knicks for over 20 years,” Deger says. “Particularly now that they are good and thrilling, you’ll be able to’t even watch them. You principally get caught watching them once they’re on ESPN and TNT.

“From the Devils standpoint, it is nonexistent as a result of they’re very hardly ever on nationwide TV. I have not watched a Devils recreation in most likely over a 12 months.”

About 10 miles south in Monroe Township, David Osnowitz, 68, faces the same conundrum. I’ve explored ditching Comcast’s cable whereas retaining its broadband as a result of, let’s face it, WiFi is a necessity today like water and sleep. However breaking apart the bundle eradicated important reductions.

So he referred to as Comcast, livid about lacking the Rangers and Knicks. Osnowitz negotiated a $200 reward card for retaining the cable supplier, however he nonetheless feels just like the loser after lacking a lot of final season’s Rangers push to the convention finals.

“You recognize what? I do not need the reward card,” Osnowitz says. “I wish to watch the Rangers after I wish to and the Knicks after I wish to.”

Deger and Osnowitz are amongst about 565,000 Comcast subscribers in New Jersey and Connecticut with out MSG Community, which broadcasts the Knicks, Rangers, Devils, Islanders and Purple Bulls. On the floor, it is a acquainted battle between corporations operated by billionaires. Sometimes, these are over rapidly as a result of cash is squandered in the course of the mudslinging. However the declining subscribers to pay-TV throughout the nation, plus Comcast’s ugly standoff with one other impartial regional sports activities community in Denver (extra on that later), makes this really feel extra ominous than the run-of-the-mill dispute.

Comcast insists Deger and Osnowitz are the huge minority. The Philadelphia-based company, a titan within the tv business, claims solely 5% of its subscribers watched greater than 10 of the 240 video games broadcast on MSG Community in the course of the 2020-21 seasons. That is humbling information contemplating it coincided with the perfect Knicks marketing campaign within the final decade, when Julius Randle and Tom Thibodeau carried the franchise to the fourth seed throughout a pandemic. In response to Comcast, the hardline strategy with MSG Community is about slicing out costly charges and defending shoppers from rising payments.

“They have not supplied an inexpensive proposal that displays the worth worth of the community,” a Comcast spokesperson mentioned.

“We do not consider that our prospects ought to need to pay the thousands and thousands of {dollars} in charges that MSG demanded for a few of the most costly sports activities content material within the nation with extraordinarily low viewership in our markets,” learn the company’s assertion. “We now have efficiently negotiated hundreds of agreements with programmers and reached agreements in virtually each occasion and have been dissatisfied that MSG determined to tug their content material reasonably than attain a good settlement.”

If that is useful for almost all as Comcast insists, it is no comfort to the subscribers enthusiastic about Jalen Brunson’s first season or Mika Zibanejad’s Stanley Cup push.

MSG Community, in the meantime, has portrayed Comcast as unreasonable and bad-faith negotiators. The community says it tried to re-up on the similar price because the earlier deal.

“MSG Networks reached out to Comcast to try to revive our programming many instances since final 12 months’s disruption, together with as just lately as final month, solely to have been rebuffed by Comcast each time,” MSG Community mentioned in a press release. “We stay ready to barter a brand new deal at a second’s discover.”

There are different choices, after all. Even in areas that do not provide Verizon Fios in its place, MSG Community is on the market on DirecTV and FuboTV. Extra data is on the market at keepmsg.com.

In an organization earnings name over the summer season, MSG Community CEO Andrea Greenberg outlined a plan to launch a streaming service for in-market followers in the course of the second half of those NBA and NHL seasons.

“The design and the construct of our [direct-to-consumer] product has gotten underground,” Greenberg says. “We’re within the strategy of constructing, and we’re making good progress.”

For these like Deger and Osnowitz, the sensible and most popular selection is to attend out Comcast.

However that is been a futile possibility in Denver. For a fourth straight season, Comcast subscribers there will not see nearly all of Nuggets and Avalanche video games due to the same dispute with the Altitude Sports activities community.

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It has been an particularly explosive concern in Denver for 2 causes: 1) Comcast is the supplier to 92% of the cable subscribers within the space, in accordance with Altitude, and a pair of) the Nuggets, who’ve the two-time reigning MVP in Nikola Jokic , and the Avalanche, the defending Stanley Cup champs, are each having fun with golden eras.

Altitude, which claims Comcast sought a 70% discount within the income mannequin earlier than the 2019 blackout, filed an antitrust go well with towards Comcast.

The lawsuit is pending.

“We consider Comcast is being unreasonable,” Altitude president Matt Hutchings informed the Day by day Information. “Our place has been that every one we wished from the start was to be handled pretty and equitably like each different regional community they carry, together with their very own and operated networks.”

The opposite aspect of the argument, the Comcast model, facilities on the mismatch of high-priced Regional Sports activities Community carriage charges and its low viewerships. The fallouts in Denver and the Tri-State space are half of a bigger concern with declining cable subscribers, which results in cost-cutting and contract disputes. RSNs fall beneath the microscope due to their excessive prices, with Comcast pointing to its latest sale of NBC Sports activities Washington for example of shedding the enterprise.

Hutchings counter is that Comcast nonetheless owns seven RSNs beneath this supposedly damaged mannequin. As an business behemoth with tons of of thousands and thousands in quarterly income, Hutchings contends, Comcast can squeeze impartial networks like Altitude and MSG whereas agreeing to offers with their very own properties, together with SportsNet New York, which is partially owned by Comcast and broadcasts Mets video games.

As a second season begins for the New York groups with out optimistic progress on this dispute, the one clear losers are the followers subscribed to Comcast.

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