MSG Networks is the latest regional sports service that says it’s planning to launch an app that would allow consumers to subscribe directly rather than having to sign up for a pay TV service such as cable or satellite.
In an analyst call yesterday following the release of its quarterly report, MSG CEO Andrea Greenberg said the company is hoping to launch the cord-cutter app by the end of this year.
“We continue to explore different direct-to-consumer models with an eye towards the launch by the end of this calendar year. So while the media landscape continues to evolve, we remain confident in the popularity of our live content and believe that our commitment to innovation, will enable us to continue to drive value for partners, advertisers and viewers alike,” Greenberg said.
MSG and MSG+ are regional sports channels that have the local TV rights to the New York Knicks, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils. The channels also air sports news and highlights programs.
The company has been hurt in recent months by the loss of Comcast which stopped carrying the two channels last October after it could not reach a new carriage agreement with MSG. The standalone app would allow Comcast subscribers, or anyone else, to watch the New York area sports teams regardless of whether their pay TV providers carried them.
Sinclair’s carriage disputes with YouTube TV, Dish, Hulu and FuboTV helped trigger a similar move to offering a cord-cutter app for its Bally Sports channels. The company is planning a spring launch for the app which would include live games for NBA, NHL and MLB teams. (Sinclair has signed digital rights deals with the NBA and NHL, but thus far has secured the rights for just four MLB teams.)
Greenberg yesterday said her company is confident it has the flexibility in its contracts with leagues and existing pay TV partners to offer a direct-to-consumer app.
“We have the flexibility in our affiliate agreement to offer a DTC (direct-to-consumer),” she said. “So it’s been contemplated. But that being said, we’re certainly mindful of our traditional linear (pay TV) business. Yeah, we’re certainly mindful of the important partnerships that we have with our distributors and the benefits including clearly the revenues and the subscribers that we see from those relationships. We believe that there remains continued value in the bundle. So for us any DTC offering we’ll take this into consideration.”
But Greenberg said that MSG wants to reach viewers who are unable to watch its channels because their pay TV provider doesn’t carry them.
“When we think about the millions of homes in our regions that don’t receive our networks, they are likely to be customers of our affiliates in one way or another,” she said. “So there also may be partnership opportunities on that front. I think we said, we’re evaluating all the opportunities right now and weighing all the considerations.”
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— Phillip Swann