Jeremy Lin Resolves Time Warner, MSG Network Dispute

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Jeremy Lin
Victory! Jeremy Lin's emergence helped bring about an end to the Time Warner-MSG Network dispute.

Jeremy Lin and the New York Knicks will return to the MSG Network, as the dispute between the Madison Square Garden Co.'s MSG Network and Time Warner Cable Inc. has been resolved.

Time Warner and MSG both said Friday evening that the two sides had reached a verbal agreement in time for Friday night's Knicks game against the New Orleans Hornets. The companies said the deal was completed with encouragement from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and NBA Commissioner David Stern.

We are committed to providing our fans with award-winning programming that continues to warrant their loyalty and allegiance, and we thank them for their patience, MSG said in a statement.

The New York Times first reported the deal Friday afternoon, which ended the standoff that began Jan. 1 and affected about 2.8 million customers.

I applaud both Mr. [James] Dolan and Mr. [Glenn] Britt and their companies, Cuomo said in a statement. I thank them for being responsive to the needs of New Yorkers.

Terms of the deal were not immediately disclosed. Representatives of both MSG Network and Time Warner Cable did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The deal means all customers will have access to regional broadcasts of the NHL's New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils, and Buffalo Sabres, including the Devils and Sabres games on Friday night.

The emergence of Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin, who fueled the Knicks' recent seven-game winning streak, resulted in pressure being applied by Knicks fans, and even politicians, hoping for a quick resolution to the bickering so they could watch basketball's latest phenom.

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn celebrated the deal a day after she publicly pressured the parties to come to an agreement in the wake of Linsanity across New York.

I want to thank the MSG-Network and Time Warner Cable for coming to a deal that will put the Knicks and the Rangers back on TV. Now, a million more New Yorkers will be able to go Linsane in the privacy of their own living room, Quinn said in the statement.

On Thursday, Quinn effectively gave the two sides an ultimatum, telling MSG Executive Chairman James Dolan and Time Warner Chairman and CEO Glenn Britt to either come to a deal within two weeks or face public hearings.

At a time when all New Yorkers are getting together behind Jeremy Lin and the New York Knicks, now is the time for you to resolve this dispute once and for all, Quinn wrote in a letter to both companies' executives.

Council member Margaret Chin also wrote a letter to the companies' executives Thursday, expressing dismay that thousands of Asian American families in New York are unable to watch [Lin] play. Chin's representative Kelly Magee said by phone Friday afternoon that the council member had planned a rally later Friday before she found out about the news.

Chin released a statement later Friday afternoon, saying she was glad the two sides had put aside their differences for the sake of the fans. She added: At the end of the day, businesses are accountable to their customers. ... New Yorkers made it clear to both TWC and MSG that this standoff was unfair.

Even without the Time Warner subscribers, Lin had driven ratings to season highs. Ratings hit a peak Wednesday when the Knicks handily beat the Sacramento Kings in Madison Square Garden. The 5.78 Nielsen household rating was the highest-rated Knicks game since Carmelo Anthony's debut with the team on Feb. 23 of last year.

Michael Neuman, managing partner of Scout Sports and Entertainment, a division of Horizon Media, said the deal was in the best interests of both parties. From a fan perspective, interest and excitement is at a season high. From an advertiser's perspective, the deal brings back the full subscriber base.

Over [the] last couple weeks, there was even more interest to come to a resolution on this matter, given how well the team is playing, Neuman said in a phone interview Friday. Nobody can say that Jeremy Lin was the savior. But his ability to elevate the play of the Knicks motivated both parties to come back to table and work to a resolution in the best interest of fans and New York City.

It continued the trend begun by Lin's emergence over the past two weeks. Lin, a point guard cut by two other teams this season, blossomed over the past seven games, six of which he has started. In those six games, the average television household rating increased 1,109 percent, compared with the previous 20 games. Ratings overall for the first 26 Knicks games this season have leaped 69 percent over the same time period last year.

MSG and Time Warner reportedly met earlier this week, but there were no signs of an imminent deal. However, MSG Media President Mike Bair told the New York Post that now is the time to do a deal. He said, I think right now, because of the Lin story, because of the performance of the team, and because of what we've seen in the ratings.

On Tuesday, Time Warner representative Maureen Huff didn't address whether the company had felt any increased pressure to resolve the dispute because of Lin's quick ascent to national prominence, but she did provide a company statement that pinned blame on MSG.

Huff said MSG was demanding a 53 percent price increase for carriage at the time, dramatically up from a 6.5 percent increase before the December negotiations. Time Warner said it requested an extension in December, but that it was denied, preventing our customers from viewing games on MSG.

With the tremendous hype surrounding Lin and his story, it's easy to forget that this deal also brings back the NHL's Rangers to the MSG Network. The Rangers currently occupy first place in the Eastern Conference and appear poised to make a deep run in the Stanley Cup playoffs, which begin in April.

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