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Bergen Record On Metro


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To compare I also put the same article under the Star Ledger thread on the same topic.


Can't-see TV: Even satellite homes lose

Saturday, November 16, 2002


Staff Writer

Montvale native Patrick D'Errico plans to flip on his television set tonight and watch the Devils skate against Montreal.

But Hackensack hockey fanatic Jonathan Moncrief, who grew up with D'Errico, will be out of luck.

This isn't just another routine casualty in the escalating local-television professional sports wars, though: The case of the Pascack Hills High School alumni features a couple of twists.

Not only is Moncrief a subscriber to satellite provider DirecTv, he upgraded his plan to receive NHL Center Ice, a $159 package that televises nearly every NHL game played all season.

D'Errico, meanwhile, lives in Jacksonville, Fla.

Yet D'Errico is the one who can watch that Devils-Canadiens game - and 17 more games than Moncrief can watch just a few miles from Continental Arena.

"I can't believe that he lives in Florida and can see 79 Devils games, and I live in Hackensack and only get to see 61 games," said an exasperated Moncrief, 34, whose friend also gets NHL Center Ice on a satellite TV package.

Moncrief's grief arises from Cablevision's decision to show selected basketball and hockey games on its MetroTV channel, which (unlike MSG or FSNY) is not available in North Jersey if you use a satellite TV provider.

The 2002-03 MetroTV lineup includes 21 Devils games, 15 Islanders games, nine Rangers games, and seven Knicks games.

So if the Nets are your favorite team, you can switch to DirecTv and avoid the yearlong skirmish that has kept the upstart YES Network - which shows almost all Nets games - out of all Cablevision homes due to a dispute over programming costs. But the price for jumping from 20 Nets games on Cablevision to getting all 82 with DirecTv is this: the loss of 45 local hockey games, nearly half of those involving the Devils.

"That's not a trade I think I should have to make," said Moncrief. Yet it's one that Howard Kaplan, a financial adviser in Tenafly, has made.

Kaplan, a former Cablevision subscriber, recently added DirecTv to his six-television home. Kaplan already had Dish Network, the other major satellite company, but added DirecTv so he could see Nets and Yankees games.

"To me, the amount of aggravation we're being put through to see sports on television is ridiculous," said Kaplan.

Of course, residents of the 315,000 Bergen and Passaic county homes in Cablevision territory can choose the expensive solution of paying at least $100 a month to have both Cablevision and DirecTv.

But if you live in East Rutherford - home of the Devils - or in many other neighboring Meadowlands towns, you can't get those 21 Devils games sent into your living room no matter what you do.

Why? Because Comcast, the cable operator for most of that area, does not have an agreement with Cablevision to carry MetroTV.

Since 1999, MetroTV has been the chief place for Cablevision to put overflow games.

With the Nets' move to YES this year, one might expect that fewer games would be on MetroTV. Instead, the total has risen from 47 total games to 52.

Mike McCarthy, MSG Network executive vice president, said MetroTV is playing a larger role due to "rebranding of their sports programming offerings."

Translation: MetroTV has been supplied with numerous extra Friday and Saturday games to give the channel more of a weekend identity. The change in philosophy will be a boost for Cablevision if MetroTV's slate sways hockey fans from switching to DirecTv, an increasing source of competition.

Is there any escape from this frustration? Well, 13 East Bergen and South Bergen towns lie within a sports TV "neutral zone." Those towns are operated by Time Warner Cable of New Jersey, which has deals with both YES Network and MetroTV

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I'm sorry about not feeling worse on this issue.

I'm THRILLED that I get all the games on Center Ice, I have digital cable for this sole purpose -- pay mightily for.

It almost makes up for all the games I can't go to and all the things I don't get to do that many Devils fans can. Like see Petr Sykora and Randy McKay's returns in person... like meeting Brylin and Berglund and Daneyko and McKenzie at Boardwalks. Like going on bus trips to Montreal.

I've gotten the shaft so long -- particularly when it comes to ESPN (and their ONE Devils game this year until playoffs), that I certainly feel worthy.

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I'm so thrilled with Center Ice - I've never enjoyed hockey more than this year when I can actually watch all of the teams & get to know them a little. And because of the Stars in the West and the Devils in the East, I have a big interest in most of the games.

The situation with Metro just isn't right. I can't afford to go to more than a couple of games a year so I depend on getting to see the games on TV. But at least it's better than being a Blackhawk fan - no home game coverage at all!

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If I missed just 21 games before I got Center Ice, I still woulda been licking my TV antenna (metaphorically speaking of course... don't try this at home any of our kids on the board...)

But you're so right, NJDev. I love being able to see a wide array of games and players. I certainly know them a lot better now and have more set favorites and non-faves than I used to.


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