TW takes a swing at YES

Another mess at bat over extra charge

NEW YORK — The New York Yankees-owned YES Network appears headed for another bruising court battle with a local cable operator less than three months after it settled a nightmarish yearlong legal donnybrook with Chuck Dolan’s Cablevision Systems.

Citing the YES agreement with Dolan as a model, Time Warner Cable of New York City said that, as of July 29, it would slap a $1 a month pricetag on YES.

YES was quick to respond, emailing a statement that read, in part, “We view this as a breach of Time Warner’s agreement with YES and … will take the necessary action to protect our rights.”

Higher tier

A TW Cable spokeswoman made no bones about the cable operator’s goal, which is to put the regional sports networks — traditionally the most expensive program services — on a tier that would cost subscribers an extra monthly fee. The other option is for the cable system to charge separate prices for each sports net.

YES will definitely take TW Cable to court in the next few days, demanding an injunction to stop the cable operator from going ahead with its extra charge until a judge rules on the merits of the case.

‘Most-favored’ clause

TW Cable said it’s merely engineering a variation on the Cablevision deal, which places a $1.95 monthly fee on YES for about 60% of its customers, giving them the lower-cost option of buying YES on a tier with MSG and Fox Sports New York for $4.95 a month. TW Cable has a most-favored-nations clause with YES that theoretically allows it to rewrite the contract in midstream.

Subscribers to TW Cable who pay the current expanded-basic fee will continue to get YES. But customers who don’t care about YES will, as of July 29, be able to inform TW Cable, which will remove YES and lower the bill by $1 a month.

TW Cable comes out ahead in the deal because for every $1 it has to give back to subscribers, it saves the per-sub license fee of $2.12 per month it pays to YES.

No interruption

YES sources say that even though they regard TW Cable’s action as a blatant breach of the contract, they will not remove the network from the 1.2 million subscribers that TW serves in the New York area.

Removing YES would only stir the still-raw memories of the 2.9 million Cablevision Yankee fans deprived of the cable games for the full 2002 season.

But YES is obliged to fight TW Cable’s refurbished deal because Cablevision is contractually obliged to shoulder any losses that YES would suffer from the rewritten contract.