With the start of the NBA and NHL seasons just weeks away, MSG Networks announced that Comcast has dropped MSG Networks, which carries the bulk of the Knicks, Rangers, Devils and Islanders games, from its Xfinity channel lineup.
The decision will primarily affect viewers in New Jersey and Connecticut and comes after failed negotiations.
"Right when fans are looking forward to the start of the NBA and NHL seasons, Comcast dropped MSG Networks to try to force us to accept terms they’d never agree to for their own regional sports networks, including SNY in New York," MSG wrote in a statement. "They rejected proposals that are consistent with their current deal and deals we have with other major providers, as well as our offer to keep our programming on air under existing terms so we could continue to work on a longer-term agreement. And even though they’ve taken away hundreds of live Knicks, Devils, Rangers and Islanders games, they continue to charge Xfinity customers the same monthly rate -- in addition to a regional sports fee that they increased 22% in January to more than $10 per month. Comcast’s refusal to negotiate is deeply disappointing."
MSG Networks is scheduled to broadcast 70 of the 82 Knicks games this season.
"We don’t believe that our customers should have to pay the millions of dollars in fees that MSG is demanding for some of the most expensive sports content in the country with extremely low viewership in our markets," Comcast said in a statement. "According to our data, customer viewership of the MSG networks is virtually non-existent. Almost 95% of all customers who received MSG over the past year did not watch more than 10 of the approximately 240 games it broadcast. Additionally, up to 80% of customers didn’t watch any MSG content at all each month in that timeframe. We have successfully negotiated thousands of agreements with programmers and reached agreements in almost every instance and are disappointed that MSG decided to pull their content rather than reach a fair agreement."
Comcast said on its website that it would reduce charges for affected customers, noting, "Since we were not able to reach a new agreement with MSG, we will reduce the RSN Fee in the applicable areas."