Jets tackle Dolan

Team's suit claims Cablevision's a monopoly

The New York Jets pro football team has slapped an antitrust suit on Chuck Dolan’s Cablevision, charging Dolan with using monopoly power to drive away competition in Gotham.

In the last few months, Cablevision has mobilized a massive campaign that has seriously jeopardized the Jets’ plan to use hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies from the state and city of New York to build a new stadium near the Javits Convention Center on the West Side of Manhattan.

The team says Dolan is trying to stop the new stadium out of fear that it would pull sports and music events away from Cablevision’s wholly owned Madison Square Garden (only a few blocks away from the proposed stadium) and Radio City Music Hall.

Jets’ lawsuit alleges that Cablevision has refused to accept 30-second spots produced by the team to “set the record straight” on the “false and misleading disinformation campaign” engineered by the cable operator.

Such refusal is subject to antitrust court remedies, the team maintains, because Cablevision has a monopoly over the 2.9 million subscribers it reaches in the Bronx, Brooklyn and other areas of New York City.

David Carter, a principal in the Sports Business Group, said he’s not surprised by the lawsuit.

“What you’re lumping together in this dispute are the forces of big business, local politics, NFL sports and media conglomerates,” Carter said. “When conflicts rise up among all of these elements, a massive antitrust suit is almost bound to occur at some point.”

Cablevision’s response came in a company statement issued Wednesday.

“More than two-thirds of New Yorkers have spoken loudly against the football stadium,” the statement said. Will the Jets’ lawyers sue each of “the millions and millions of New Yorkers who oppose their attempt to grab more than $1 billion tax dollars to build themselves a stadium?,” Cablevision asked rhetorically, calling the suit “a desperate publicity stunt by the Jets.”

The purpose of that “stunt,” the statement concluded, is to “improperly influence” a competitive bid process that a city agency is now organizing to get the best price for the property the team is coveting for the stadium.

Jets’ lawsuit comes on top of a bare-knuckled family feud between company chairman Charles Dolan and his son James, the president, over money-hemorrhaging satellite service Voom. Chuck wants to keep Voom going despite its losses and James wants to shut it down. Chuck is now trying to get the money to keep Voom alive as a separate operation.

Cablevision is also engaged in open warfare with Time Warner Cable of New York City over the renewal of Dolan’s two regional sports networks, MSG and Fox Sports New York. Both nets are off TW’s cable systems as the parties haggle over the terms of the renewal.

Time Warner and Dolan are also in court over Cablevision’s AMC.

TW wants to remove the net from all of its cable systems throughout the U.S., citing a breach of contract.

Time Warner bought AMC as a classic-movie service, but the network has purchased more recent movies in the last few years to attract a younger audience, a move that coincides with AMC’s accepting advertising for the first time. TW says this new strategy violates AMC’s contract with the cable operator.

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