Three weeks and counting, and Time Warner Cable customers still aren't getting their Knicks or Rangers on MSG Network. Both teams are competitive this year, but what happens on the court or in the rink has no bearing on what is playing out between these two companies. Certainly the ads continue to populate the sports pages, but the longer it goes, does the loss become less and less relevant?
Are customers actually switching providers because TWC no longer carries these games? Some viewers simply drop by their local sports bar or visit a friend, some might find a website that carries the game, and others may decide that they can do without. Most likely, not many people have dropped their cable service. And certainly the ones that did leave didn't do much to hurt the bottom line. Eventually either MSG or TWC will blink, but both are also stubborn, so the battle may rage on for a while longer.
But this battle also symbolizes the issue facing cable operators, programmers and viewers. The rising costs of license fees quickly cause subscriber bills to rise. And the higher they go, the quicker consumers get fed up with the cost of cable and seek alternative distribution choices. It is the cable operators' ultimate worry that the rising costs of programming will cost them subscribers who cut their cable cord.