MSG, Fox Sign Deal To Air Rangers, Knicks Games

It happens as often as either the Knicks (34 years) or Rangers (once in 67) win a championship. But each will have two games on local, over-the-air TV this season--to be carried on a Fox owned-and-operated New York station.

The broadcasts come via a deal between the MSG cable network--which airs the Knicks and Rangers games in New York not offered on national TV--and the Fox station group and its MyNetworkTV (WWOR) station. The last time the Knicks were carried locally on a broadcast station was in January 1998 on WNBC.

The games on WWOR start Sunday with a Rangers match-up with Dallas, followed by Dec. 16 against Phoenix. Knicks games are Dec. 30 against Chicago and March 30 versus Atlanta. (MSG will produce the broadcasts.) All are on Sunday afternoons, and none would be considered marquee match-ups.

Sales for the games will be split between MSG and WWOR. WWOR hasn't carried a Knicks or Rangers game in at least the last 15 years, a channel representative said.



The MSG Network carries all of both Knicks and Rangers games (a few Rangers games are on sister cable network FSN New York) not picked up by national cable or broadcast networks.

The reason for no local-broadcast partner is clear: MSG Network is owned by Cablevision, and the cable operator wants to use the games as a chip to get as many people as possible to subscribe to its system. Also, Cablevision wants to extract high subscriber fees from the other cable and satellite providers operating in and around New York that carry MSG.

Nonetheless, MSG's Lydia Murphy-Stephans said the deal is "on strategy for increasing the exposure of our content and making our games available to a broader audience."

For WWOR, the move could serve as a promotional platform for its MyNetworkTV prime-time fare. That network is bleeding money, and has yet to find even a minor hit two years in. While Knicks and Rangers games have been off local TV, WWOR has carried New Jersey Nets games--including playoff contests--the last two springs in a deal with cable's Yes Network. It has offered Nets games when Yes' flagship New York Yankees programming posed a conflict.

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