The Buffalo Sabres have been with the Madison Square Garden network since the 2005-06 season after the Adelphia owned Empire Sports Network folded. There have been some quips with how MSG handles Sabres games, including the use of a road HD feed when the Sabres play other teams that are on MSG to save money. Now, the MSG Network and Buffalo's largest cable provider, Time Warner Cable, are locked in a bitter battle that could affect thousands of Sabres fans come January 1st.
There are some thoughts that Time Warner Cable and MSG might still come to an agreement before the January 1st deadline. There are also folks that use DISH Network as their cable provider that thought their cable company would come to an agreement with MSG as well. Ask them how that's going.
MSG has been locked in an ugly fight with three of the four largest cable providers in the Western New York area. None of those disputes came to an amicable decision, the Verizon FiOS fight had to be settled through the courts. MSG asks Sabres fans to just change cable providers, but for many that option is just not viable. Whether not being within the Verizon FiOS area or not being able to use a dish, asking people to just up and change cable providers is not a feasible solution.
The Sabres are unfortunately caught between a rock and a hard place at the moment. They can't go and say anything that is going to go against their provider because that would just look bad. But, the fact that thousands of fans are being shut out from getting a game and tens of thousands more could be joining them has to be a worrying concern.
While the Sabres can't make changes this season, in the long term, the Sabres could be the anchor tenant for a regional sports channel. MSG is the only New York State regional sports channel that can be widely viewed among multiple cable outlets. The main problem with having a regional sports channel in Western New York is besides the Sabres programming, what is the channel going to air. It isn't like the Buffalo sports scene has enough going on when the Sabres and Bills aren't playing to make it viable.
All in all, this fight between a cable company and a cable channel only hurts one group, the people who pay to watch the channel.