On top of the ice at Madison Square Garden is the hardwood floor
on which the New York Knicks play. As mediocre and mismanaged as
the Rangers are, the Knicks may be even worse. Not surprisingly,
both franchises are owned by the same company: Cablevision.
When Cablevision bought the two teams in 1997, the vision of CEO
James Dolan was to make them the pillars of a company in which
each holding--from the retail electronics chain The Wiz to
Clearview Cinemas to Madison Square Garden--enhanced the value of
the others. It was to be a synergistic empire for the new
So far, so bad. The two teams have struggled competitively--the
Knicks are a lottery-bound squad for the second straight season,
with no All-Stars and plenty of empty seats at Madison Square
Garden, which had its nine-year sellout streak end in November.
(A Cablevision spokesman points out that the Knicks are playing
to more than 97% of capacity.) The company recently had to sell
assets such as the Bravo Network to pay its mounting debt. The
revenue of the MSG unit--which includes the MSG network, Fox
Sports Net New York, the Knicks and the Rangers--was down 9% in
the third quarter compared with the previous year. The company's
stock price, which reached an alltime high of $91.88 in 1999,
closed at 16.85 on Monday.
Then there is the TV issue. In 2002 the Yankees moved their
telecasts to YES, a cable network they started. Though 35 other
regional cable companies carry YES, Cablevision is unwilling to
pay the monthly fee of $2 per subscriber. The result: 2.9 million
subscribers were unable to watch 130 Yankees games last year,
even if they were willing to pay for them.
YES and Cablevision are at loggerheads, meaning millions of
Yankees fans may go another season unable to watch their team.
Meanwhile, thanks to Cablevision, the Knicks and the Rangers are
hardly worth watching. --Chris Ballard
COLOR PHOTO: STAN HONDA/AFP LOSING SPREE Latrell Sprewell and the Knicks appear lottery-boundfor the second year in a row.