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Time Warner, MSG fail to reach agreement

As a midnight deadline approached, MSG network officials said their programming including Buffalo Sabres games -- would be off the Time Warner Cable lineup starting today because the two sides had failed to agree on a new contract.

"We are disappointed that MSG and MSG Plus will be dropped from Time Warner Cable's lineup," Michael Bair, MSG Media president, said in a prepared statement hours before the deadline.

Asked if that meant the network would not make its programming available as talks continue, an MSG spokesman said, "We've been negotiating for two years and they've rejected every one of our offers and renewal proposals They let the agreement expire."

Pressed on whether that meant MSG programming would not be available to area Time Warner customers, the spokesman said, "Correct."

The two sides have been arguing over how much Time Warner should pay to carry the MSG networks. Time Warner has said MSG sought a 53 percent increase; MSG said Time Warner's offers are outdated and not in the ballpark with what other cable companies pay.

"The decision to remove MSG programming from our lineup rests entirely with MSG," Time Warner spokesman Matthew Tremblay said late Saturday. "By making that decision well in advance of the deadline, MSG has again shown that they are more interested in holding New York sports fans hostage than in negotiating a deal."

Tremblay said MSG should return to the bargaining table and "get a deal done."

"It's especially disappointing because we were close to an agreement for a 6.5 percent increase in the price we pay, but MSG reneged on that offer a few weeks ago," Tremblay said. "We offered an extension at close to that rate until September 2012 so we could continue negotiating. MSG refused that, too."

In addition to Sabres games, MSG's coverage includes New York Rangers, Knicks and Islanders games.

email: citydesk@buffnews.com