Time Warner/MSG stalemate irks Brown, Schumer

January 6, 2012 Updated Jan 6, 2012 at 8:17 AM EDT

By WKBW News
By Business First by James Fink, Buffalo Business First Reporter

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January 6, 2012 Updated Jan 6, 2012 at 8:17 AM EDT

Normally, Charles Schumer - New York's senior senator - is pretty vocal about virtually any topic asked of him.

So, it was a little strange during his Jan. 5 appearance at Roswell Park Cancer Institute that he offered only a few words about the closely-watched Time Warner Cable/MSG Networks stalled talks that have knocked the channel from Time Warner's system. That means fans of the Buffalo Sabres, New York Knicks and New York Rangers - and New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders - if there are any - can't watch their favorite team on Time Warner.

Judging from recent comments made by both Time Warner and MSG officials respectively, it appears there is little hope the dispute over carriage right fees may be settled anytime soon.

Schumer was cautious in his view of the talks.

"This is really a private dispute," Schumer said while leaving Roswell Park and walking towards a waiting car. "I don't know all the details. I can't say whose right or whose wrong."

Yet, a huge sports fan, Schumer said he is just as frustrated and annoyed as others across the state. Time Warner has 330,000 subscribers in the immediate Buffalo Niagara region and more than 2 million in metropolitan New York. In Buffalo, one out of every six Time Warner subscribers watches the Sabres.

"As a sports fan, I know how much this hurts," Schumer said.

But, given his clout in Washington, could Schumer ask either the FCC or SEC to intervene and put pressure on Time Warner and MSG to settle the dispute.

"Unfortunately, because it is the cable industry, they aren't regulated by the FCC," Schumer said.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, an avid Sabres and Knicks fan, said he, too is frustrated.

Brown asked the city's law department if there was any legislative or legal clause that Buffalo could exercise that might speed up the negotiations - or at least get the two parties back having serious talks.

Sadly, the answer came back no, Brown said.

"Still, I find the whole thing unfair," Brown said. "People around here live for watching their sports. It's funny because Time Warner expects you to pay your bills on time and people do. Their subscribers expect to see the Sabres on their system. They are paying for programming which right now is not available to them. That's wrong."

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