Puns are stupid, this is simply a crisis lesson about Jeremy Lin

Time-Warner cable initiated its own damaging PR crisis when MSG would not let it broadcast Sabres, Islanders and Rangers games to about 1.5 million subscribers statewide because of a programming contract price dispute.

But because MSG also has the Knicks and the hottest sports story since the Super Bowl — guard Jeremy Lin — Time-Warner’s headache just went migraine. [Pass the Excedlin].


In Buffalo, where most cable subscribers get their Sabres games on MSG via Time-Warner, the squabble cut off those fans Jan. 1. But while Buffalo is indeed the second-largest city in New York — akin to being the ‘highest mountain in Florida’ — angering Knick fans and Time-Warner subscribers in the Big Apple bites you much worse.

Time-Warner is surely suffering from the stance its executives took to not pay MSG what it wanted to charge to maintain its programming in Time-Warner’s lineup. We’re not here to judge who’s right.

We are here to point out that this is a self-made crisis heightened by factors outside either Time-Warner’s or MSG’s control. You can’t avoid crises forced from the outside; you should avoid those of your own doing.

A week ago, few people beyond Lin’s grandmother — that’s her on A1 of the New York Times today — had heard of him. And no one thought he’d be a factor in the sumo match between Time-Warner and MSG-Cablevision.

That’s the nature of crisis. Consider the cliches: When it rains it pours. Everything that can go wrong will go wrong and at the worst possible time. Out of the frying pan into the fire. You get the drift.

With Time-Warner’s angry customers running to Dish Network, Verizon‘s FiOS and internet access — legal, paid or not — its executives have to be sweating bullets.

‘Cause here’s the dirty little secret everyone gets, but very few will discuss publicly. If MSG’s demands for increased payments for its programming — reportedly a 53 percent bump — were really the issue, then every time a programming provider wanted a raise, Time-Warner would balk and cut off that provider too.

What is really at work here is that Time-Warner routinely passes on to its subscribers the increased cost of programming. Has anyone ever received a notice from any cable provider saying rates were decreasing because the cost of programming dropped?

What Time-Warner is really telling MSG, and by extension all the folks who want to see Lin’s heroics, is that your ask is too big to quietly pass on to our customers. OMG, they’d notice.

Thus this crisis is self-inflicted and the escape hatch is locked from the inside. Bad PR. Trifling crisis management. Because the facts, which should be your friends, are not.


About steveoncrisis

The content is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It comes from Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and as managing editor and editorial page editor at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower and Associates, one of the nation's largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agency with six offices in the Northeast and Southeast.
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