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Time Warner Cable, MSG Win as Lin and Knicks Slide

Stocks in this article: TWC MSG CVC

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- A month after "Linsanity" hit its peak in the New York area, there is a trail of winners and losers on and off the court.   

During seven straight wins with Knicks phenom Jeremy Lin in the lineup, New York hoops diehards, fair-weather fans and even the governor were crying foul on a standoff between  Madison Square Garden (MSG), the owner of the Knicks television rights, and  Time Warner Cable (TWC), a powerhouse cable provider to the region.

While the standoff benched Lin in the living rooms of nearly 3 million local viewers, a truce brokered hours before the tip-off to Lin's eighth start may have been the high-water mark of Linsanity.

Jeremy Lin helped end a MSG and Time Warner standoff, but who won?  

Since MSG and Time Warner settled, the Knicks have cooled to a 6-9 record, but the best New York basketball story in a generation has created off-court financial winners and losers.    

"The timing went to MSG's favor," says Martin Pyykkonen of Wedge Partners, when reflecting on the programming settlement of Feb. 17. "It was not so great for Time Warner Cable to play hardball," he adds of the dispute, which started with the New Year and ended after a 48-day blackout.  

As 2011 drew to a close, MSG and Time Warner Cable were unable to come to terms on the price of a carriage renewal for the network that carries the Knicks and New York Rangers ice hockey team, causing a blackout of games to large chunks of New York.

Time Warner Cable argued that MSG was trying to extract an over-50% price increase, while MSG said that the rise was closer to 6%, fair compensation for the improving teams. Analysts say that the settlement was somewhere in between, with a Lin-fueled Knicks surge putting the ball in the court of MSG after Time Warner Cable began negotiations on the offensive.   

Time Warner Cable would have wanted to wait until March to cut a deal, when the NCAA men's basketball tournament pulls hoops viewers from the pro game to the college ranks, says Richard Tullo, a director of research at Albert Fried. Instead, Lin's play and heightened interest in the Knicks catalyzed a February deal, which Tullo calculates will net MSG a 19% price increase for 2012.  

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