By Liana B. Baker
(Reuters) - In his biggest feat off the basketball court yet, Jeremy Lin has helped restore New York Knicks games to more than 1 million TV viewers in New York.
After a blackout that lasted a month and a half, Time Warner Cable Inc subscribers will be able to watch the New York Knicks and New York Rangers hockey games, thanks to a new agreement struck with Madison Square Garden Co, which owns the MSG Network sports channel, a spokesman for the cable company said on Friday.
The companies' broadcast carriage agreement expired on December 31 and the two sides had been unable to strike a new deal until Friday. The sides had been deadlocked, depriving New York Time Warner Cable subscribers from watching the biggest story in basketball as it was happening in their own backyard.
"At this point given the phenomenon of the situation that is Jeremy Lin, I don't think they had much choice," said Brean Murray analyst Todd Mitchell.
While Time Warner Cable declined to provide details of the new terms, Mitchell said the cable provider probably had to pay top dollar.
MSG had asked for a 53 percent increase, according to Time Warner Cable comments made earlier in February.
"I don't think Time Warner had a lot of bargaining leverage. I don't know what kind of concessions they could have wrung out of MSG," Mitchell said.
MSG is controlled by the Dolan family, which also owns the Knicks, the New York Rangers and Cablevision Systems Corp, a rival of Time Warner Cable.
As one of the few types of live programming still viewed by enough people to attract top advertising dollars, the cost of sports programming has been rising globally. Other TV shows, such as dramas and comedies, are often taped and watched later, when viewers often fast-forward through commercials.
The firm SNL Kagan previously estimated that operators pay $2.63 per month per subscriber to carry the MSG Network. This compares with $2.99 per subscriber for YES Network, which is home to the New York Yankees and New Jersey Nets and $2.55 per month for SportsNet New York, which carries New York Mets baseball games.
National sports network ESPN can cost providers as much $4.69 per subscriber per month, according to SNL Kagan Research.
New York public officials intervened to helped solve the dispute and released statements about the agreement before the two companies did on Friday.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said that, "our office has worked diligently with Time Warner Cable and MSG Networks over the last month to bring about a resolution to their dispute."
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement he applauds James Dolan, the chief executive of Madison Square Garden Co, and Glenn Britt, Time Warner Cable's CEO, for "being responsive to the needs of New Yorkers."
An MSG spokesman could not be reached for comment on Friday.
The New York Times first reported the agreement earlier on Friday.
(Reporting By Liana B. Baker; editing by Tim Dobbyn and Andre Grenon)