There is perhaps no bigger sports town on the planet — certainly not in North America — than New York City. The Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets, Knicks, Nets, Rangers, and Islanders all dominate the conversation in the Big Apple. (The Red Bulls? Not so much.) That might explain why the cable channels that show New Yorkers their local teams practically have a license to print money.
New York City has four cable channels dedicated to local sports:
- The Yankees Entertainment and Sports (YES) Network, which airs New York Yankees baseball games and Brooklyn Nets basketball games.
- SportsNet New York, which airs New York Mets baseball games and select college sports, plus provides in-depth coverage of the New York Jets.
- MSG and MSG Plus, two separate channels which show New York Knicks basketball games, hockey games featuring the Rangers, Islanders, and New Jersey Devils, New York Red Bulls soccer games, and in-depth coverage of the New York Giants.
When you sign up for cable, satellite, or fiber TV service anywhere in the five boroughs and choose the first package above basic cable, you automatically get all four of these channels. None of them are cheap. According to SNL Kagan estimates, YES Network’s subscriber fee is $2.99 per month, SportsNet New York’s sub fee is $2.55 per month, and MSG charges a combined $4.91 per month for its two channels.
So the end result is that every New Yorker with standard cable pays $10.45 per month, or $125.40 per year, for local sports channels.
Nielsen Media Research estimates that 96.1% of the 7,384,340 NYC homes with TV subscribe to some sort of pay TV service. How many of those subscribers get more than basic cable is unclear, but if we assume that 20% of the homes that pay for TV get only basic cable, that gives us 5,677,080 homes that pay for those four sports channels. That’s nearly $712 million dollars per year those channels rake in from the city alone — to say nothing of what those networks pull from upstate New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and everywhere else where New York teams have a huge fan base. (Estimates for the Tri-State Area peg YES Network subscribers at 9 million and MSG subscribers at 8.2 million. YES Network also claims 15 million subscribers nationwide.)
Those subscriber fees account for a huge portion of those four channels’ annual revenue — and in terms of revenue, they don’t have many peers:
What’s more, all those subscribers in the city pay for all the teams in the city. Are you a Yankees fan who hates the Mets? Too bad. In order to get YES Network, you have to pay for SportsNet NY, too, and help cover the $65 million the Mets will receive from that network this year. Don’t like that? Suck it up or listen to the radio.
The fact that New York is such a big sports town gives these networks major political allies, too. When Time Warner Cable blocked MSG and MSG Plus over subscriber fees last year, Governor Andrew Cuomo and City Council speaker Christine Quinn stepped in to force both sides into a resolution. Clearly, the fans must have expressed enough outrage to political leaders that they would bring the dispute to an end. (One wonders, though, why those fans didn’t just switch carriers, like nearly 1.5 million people have done in the past year.)
On the other hand, if you don’t care about sports, the question remains: why would you spend $125.40 a year on something that gives you no value in return?
Clearly, the powers that be at YES Network, SportsNet NY, and MSG don’t want you to ponder that question.
Live in New York? Surprised by how much you’re paying for local sports on TV? Leave a comment below with your thoughts on the matter. Then check out our home page app to see how much money you give to pro and college sports organizations every year through your cable bill.