MSG Continues Move Toward Sports Irrelevancy

Regional college sports don’t draw earth-shattering ratings because the networks typically scoop up the best games, however MSG losing Big East basketball and football to SNY is the continuation of a trend towards obsolesence for MSG.

Long considered the go-to place for college sports in the metropolitan region, SNY snapped up market share last season with an in-studio Big East basketball show and a Game of the Week. Now the Wilpon-owned network has snagged almost exclusive coverage of the two biggest sports in the conference. While ratings are not comprable to the Mets and Yankees, with Rutgers football surging, and power-house basketball conference that boasts many players from the NYC area, Big East games should score significantly higher ratings than any substitute programming.

It’s another sign that MSG is heading toward a pure entertainment network with sports on the side. The Yankees and Mets not only started their own networks, but have also invaded MSG’s programming chest. The team-owned RSN’s have weekly shows for the two professional football teams, each now has college sports, and the YES has the Nets. SNY with the Mets and Jets, YES with the Giants and Yankees, have cornered the market on the two most popular professional sports. Plus, YES holds an ace up its sleeve if the Nets move to Brooklyn and can lure Lebron James ratings will skyrocket.

Meanwhile, MSG now has more airtime for subway musicians and wrestling classics. On the sports side, its Knicks, Rangers, and the high school circuit, with the Islanders and Devils on its sister unit, MSG Plus. If Cablevision ever sold or lost either Garden team, rest assured YES and SNY would be all over the TV rights. MSG holds it sports hopes on hockey, by far the lowest rated pro sport, though Ranger ratings did increase this season. The Knicks have ratings potential because of their large fan base and storied history, but its hard to put it any other way – they stink.

MSG may enjoy higher ratings for its entertainment based MSG, NY show, but without major sports the RSN is moving toward irrelevancy. Across town, YES is generating the highest viewing audience in RSN history for Yankee games, while SNY rides high with the Mets and a lineup of creative, opionated sports news content. Next time MSG goes to negotiate with non-Cablevision providers, don’t count on a per-subscriber increase.

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