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A Classic TV Move to Replace Sports Channel

Alfred Hitchcock (Madame Tussauds London).

Alfred Hitchcock

The new classic TV station WBBZ is going to get more local competition on Jan. 1.

That’s the date that Channel 2 will begin carrying Antenna TV on the digital channel that is currently carrying NBC’s Universal Sports on Time Warner Cable’s Channel 114.

Universal Sports dissolves on Jan. 2 when its programming becomes part of the NBC Sports Network that is replacing Versus on the same day.

Antenna TV won’t have the equivalent channel location of WBBZ (which is on Channel 5) but it will have more power to enable more non-cable homes to receive it with strong antennas.

According to its website, Antenna TV’s lineup includes such old series as “Sanford and Son,” “The Monkees,” “Three’s Company,” “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” “The Jack Benny Program, “Hazel,” “Dragnet,” “Adam-12,” “McHale’s Navy” and “Too Close to Comfort.”

That lineup may be too close for comfort for WBBZ, which almost equaled the daily audience of WNLO-TV (Channel 4’s sister station) and WNYO-TV during the November sweeps  even though those channels carry Channel 4 and Channel 2 10 p.m. newscasts, respectively.

WBBZ is planning to increase its local programming to differentiate itself from just a classic TV station. It wouldn’t be surprising if Channel 2 carried repeats of some of its local programming on Antenna TV. Sources say that the digital channel won’t have any paid programming.

Stilltalkintv was on WBEN-AM this morning to try and explain the ongoing public relations battle and rate dispute between Time Warner Cable and MSG, which carries Buffalo Sabres game and New York Knicks game.

On Sunday, TWC sent out a release stating it wouldn’t take the Sabres games off of MSG on Jan. 1 once the current contract expires. That release was designed to put the blame on MSG if the games disappeared.

MSG countered with a full-page ad in the Buffalo News today with the headline “Time Warner Cable Might Cancel Your Sabres Games” with the sub-head “Time Warner Cable May Drop MSG and MSG plus on January 1st.”

In other words, each company is trying to blame the other if the games disappear. TWC’s offer to keep the games on past Jan. 1 would remove all the leverage (the games) that MSG has in the contract talks. It is somewhat like a business telling its union workers they can keep working for the same wages after a contract ends and hoping the union doesn’t use its only leverage and strike.

MSG’s ad today is similarly misleading. TWC doesn’t want to “cancel” the Sabres games. It will only take then off if MSG takes the “strike option” and forces it to take them off when the contract expires.

TWC has claimed that it would have been willing to accept an earlier price hike of about 6 percent but adds that MSG now wants a 53 percent rate hike to carry the channel and the low-watched Fuse channel (which has been taken off). MSG has countered by saying TWC is misrepresenting the negotiations.

Of course, cable companies and suppliers don’t usually reveal specific contract requests. I would be more comfortable with TWC’s claims if they detailed exactly what they are being asked to do in dollars and cents.

MSG is telling TWC subscribers that they have agreements with DirecTV and FiOS and could switch to get the Sabres games.

It is easy to see who Sabres fans and non-hockey fans should root for – TWC. The more it has to pay the more subscribers eventually will have to pay. And that includes all the TWC subscribers who don’t care about hockey because cable companies pay a per subscriber fee whether you watch the Sabres games or not.

As I said on the radio this morning, there are more reasons for MSG and TWC to make a deal locally and downstate than there was for MSG and DISH a year ago when Sabre games left the satellite provider.

The TWC and MSG battle is essentially one between two cable companies (since MSG is owned by a subsidiary of Cablevision) and not between a cable programmer and a satellite provider. Additionally, Cablevision owns the New York Knicks and New York Rangers and presumably would want their  games to continue to get exposure on TWC in the downstate area.


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7 responses to "A Classic TV Move to Replace Sports Channel"

  1. Dave says:

    This is the same tactic MSG took with Dish Network. “We want you to carry Fuse AND pay more for both channels.” I had Dish and was without the Sabres for almost the full 2010-11 season. I finally switched with about 10 games left in April.

    As I argued then, MSG may fancy themselves to be ESPN, but beyond the games, there is nothing worth watching. At least from my perspective. After the Sabres broadcast is over, so is my interest in anything on MSG.

    Maybe the people in the tri-state area or more willing to pay for MSG programming, but my threshold was very low for willingness to put up with their tactics.

    And music channels are a dying breed. Palladia has better concert movies, and music videos can be streamed on YouTube and elsewhere.

    It is unfortunate that Cablevision, the parent company, is trying to strong-arm carriers to include a bundled Fuse.

    And unfortunately for Buffalo subscribers, TWC is the carrier for the NYC area, and if there is enough pressure from that part of the state to make a deal, Buffalo customers will be on the hook for that rate increase too.

  2. Paul says:

    One thing Time Warner is clearly doing wrong in this dispute is their radio campaign on WGR. The spot never mentions the Sabres and only talks about how MSG will take off the Knicks, Rangers and other MSG sports. I understand having a NYC focused ad but for goodness sake don’t air it here and in Rochester. It just backs up the idea that Time Warner is some giant media company who could care less about serving their customers. Sure it’s true but why point it out in your own radio ad?

  3. joseph malvestuto says:

    I’ll keep this simple….i’m not going to get into the nuts & bolts of this issue which is greed on both sides…i dumped Dish network November 2010 because of this issue and switched back to Time Warner….now here we go again….and MSG suggests to switch to Fios..which is not even available in my area, or Direct TV which will probably be next down the road with this foolishness..really irritating

    • Nah, DirecTV just kicks the bill right down to the consumer. They’re generally the most expensive of them all, because they almost never stand up to the networks when they want an increase. I have never seen DirecTV in a carriage dispute– ever.

  4. Regarding the whole Antenna TV… that’s a reversal from what WGRZ was originally going to do, which was go with no subchannels at all, isn’t it?

    I’ve seen good things about Antenna TV… I like the program offerings, thought I saw once upon time that they had Benny Hill, which has been a favorite of mine, but that appears no longer to be the case.

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