BUFFALO, N.Y.- Buffalo Sabres fans who are also Time Warner Cable subscribers won't be able to see the action on the ice Tuesday night, and possibly for awhile.
Fans are caught in the middle of a contract dispute between Time Warner and MSG Networks, the company with the rights to broadcast Sabres games. There are 240,000 customers affected in Western New York, and 2.8 million affected across the state.
Representatives from both sides say talks have stopped. Time Warner Cable has said MSG has requested a 53% rate increase; a claim MSG denies, but the network has not specified the rate increase it is requesting.
MSG Networks have been off cable since Sunday; MSG has been replaced on Time Warner's digital line-up by the NBA Channel, and MSG Plus has been replaced by the NHL Network.
Dennis C. Vacco has been watching the battle through two lenses: that of a Time Warner subscriber and sports fan, and that of former State Attorney General.
"I don't think that this resolves itself in the ordinary course of business, because I think there's too much at stake," said Vacco. "I think the Attorney General needs to take this from the perspective that he's going to solve this for consumers"
If current Attorney General Eric Schneiderman decides to enter the fray, it wouldn't be without precedent. Back in 2004, Eliot Spitzer, who was Attorney General at the time, brokered a deal between the YES Network and Cablevision. A year later, he did the same with Time Warner Cable and MSG Networks.
"I believe that most commentators would say that Eliot Spitzer did a good job of brokering a resolution," said Vacco.
Vacco said the traditional role of the Attorney General is that of consumer protector, and with millions of customers affected across the state, there are plenty of consumers here in need of protecting.
"My cable bill is, pick a number, $85 a month, and last month I got MSG, as part of that package, and now this month and next month I'm not going to, so why is my rate the same? That's the entry point if you will, for the Attorney General," said Vacco.
An entry point in to a battle that is part of something much larger.
MSG split off from Cablevision in 2010 to become its own independent, publicly-traded company, the network's Executive Chairman Jim Dolan is also President and CEO of Cablevision.
"They've been at loggerheads, these two cable giants, for years. So this MSG, Time Warner Cable dispute, is actually a smaller battle in a larger war between these two cable giants," said Vacco. "I really think at the end of the day, it really is, all about money."