Why MSG Plus Didn’t Show You the First Period of Last Night’s Islanders-Devils Game

Kevin Schultz

If you tried tuning in at 6:30pm to see Peter Ruttgaizer on the Islanders pre-game show on MSG Plus, you instead got the first overtime of a college basketball game between midwestern hardwood, uh, powerhouses Tulsa (13-11) and Houston (15-8), a Conference USA matchup. The game went long, as sports are wont to do on occasion, and ran into the Islanders telecast on MSG Plus.

OK, so missing a pre-game show isn’t the worst thing that could happen. Starting lineups and other news items are usually known hours before the game. But MSG Networks wouldn’t preempt the actual game, would they?

Well, they did.

MSG Networks made the decision to stick with the basketball game, which naturally ended up going into not one, not two, but three overtimes. Nearly an hour later, around 7:30pm, MSG finally cut to the Islanders with only minutes to go in the first period.

A source with inside knowledge of regional sports television told Point Blank that the delayed switch was likely due to contractual obligations between MSG and Conference USA. The source elaborated:

Even though [the basketball game] has no regional influence, it’s bad precedent to leave a close game like that, especially if MSG has a contract with Conference USA. The most likely scenario is that MSG has a deal with Conference USA and to stay on good terms, along with a close game, they stuck with it.

That’s not going to be music to the ears of Islanders fans who were rightfully upset by missing an entire period of game action with the Isles announce team for something they had zero interest in.

Last night’s preemption shows the tricky nature of televising sporting events and the decisions that have to be made on the fly. The live and unpredictable nature of sports isn’t made to blend well with specified time slots.

In this case, with the same game airing on a sibling network — the Devils feed with Steve Cangialosi and Chico Resch was on MSG — the network probably felt it was in a position to be able to stay with the basketball game while still showing the hockey game. That also means the local area didn’t get to hear Howie Rose and Butch Goring.

Another slight towards the Islanders that was addressed by some fans was that the Devils were on MSG to begin with, the perceived ‘better’ network, while the Islanders were on MSG Plus. But remember in this case, MSG Plus is really the old Fox Sports New York in Cablevision clothing. Writes hockey media guru Steve Lepore:

Remember: MSG Plus is main network for Devils/Isles. Meaning that since there was no Knick game, MSG was technically the overflow channel… If the Knicks had been playing, I’d almost guarantee you NJ would have been on MSG Plus 2. But MSG was available, so that was the overflow.

That may seem like reverse login, but it may hold true. Back in January when the Islanders played the Devils for the home opener, the Islanders were on Plus while the Devils were relegated to overflow Plus2.

Sports television is business, and MSG may have chosen their perceived path of least resistance. The hockey game still aired, although not at the promised coverage level, and they kept their relationship with C-USA on the up-and-up.

And stuck in the middle were Islanders fans. But remember, MSG might not care how many of you are watching anyway.

MSG did not return a request for comment on this story.




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