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LIers don’t have to suffer for Comcast, YES Network dispute

YES Network broadcasters Michael Kay and Ken Singleton.

YES Network broadcasters Michael Kay and Ken Singleton. Credit: Getty Images

Long Island has plenty going for it, from its famous beaches to its prestigious wineries to its good schools, friendly neighborhoods, informative daily newspaper and abundance of fine pizzerias, delis and soft serve ice cream stands.

Now this: Residents of Nassau and Suffolk who follow the Yankees can enjoy spring training carefree, happily ignoring the current carriage dispute between Comcast and the Fox-owned YES Network.

That is because of the 900,000 or so Comcast customers impacted, none are on Long Island. They are in New Jersey, southern Connecticut and a small part of Pennsylvania.

For all YES viewers, there also is the matter of the schedule itself. As Sports Business Daily noted Friday, the Yankees have far fewer games on WPIX early this season than in the past, with the first one not until April 30, compared to April 10 last year.

Overall, there are only five games on WPIX in April and May, down from eight in that span last year. Only two of them are before May 27.

More games on YES and fewer on Channel 11 obviously helps YES’ leverage in its negotiations with Comcast.

Comcast dropped YES in November. But as expected, the pressure has been turned up on both sides as baseball season approaches. (Nets fans apparently did not create much of a fuss over the winter.)

YES began an extensive, expensive ad campaign this week urging Yankees fans to switch to another provider, and network president Tracy Dolgin was made available for interviews on the subject.

The basics are familiar to similar disputes dating back many years, with Comcast insisting YES is too expensive and YES insisting it is not, and that Comcast agreed to pay last season without a contract in place, then dropped YES after the baseball season.

But Comcast surprised many in the industry with the way it initially portrayed YES, arguing that over 90 percent of its 900,000 customers who get YES “didn’t watch the equivalent of even one quarter those games during the season.”

The tactic risked highlighting the fact that viewership for many sports networks is lower than many customers might assume. On the other hand, it ignored the fact that compared to other types of local cable TV programming, sports is considered the most valuable and important of all.

It is a complex subject, made more so by the fact that Comcast owns cable channels itself, leaving it on both sides of the argument in distribution fights over the years.

Such overlapping, contradictory positions are common in the industry, as are carriage squabbles such as the one that threatens to deny nearly a million homes of Yankees games when the season begins next month.

Thankfully for Long Islanders, though, they can sit this one out.

New York Sports