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'MSG, NY' to ditch current format effective January, '09

(Credit: Watchdog)

Speaking of scoops (see post below), I broke the news in the Thursday newspaper that as of the end of the calendar year, "MSG, NY" will cease to exist as we have known it lo these past two years. (As will "Hockey Night Live" on Saturdays.)

Basically, the ratings were poor, and the network figured it could better serve and attract viewers by "blowing out" the show on Knicks and Rangers game nights and turning it into something more like a postgame show and less like a peculiar mishmash of hockey and concert highlights.

(Once, when I was in a wiseacre mood, I wrote the show was apparently targeting the "Barbra Streisand/Sandish Ozolinsh demographic." I kind of liked that one, if I do say so myself.)

MSG Media president Mike Bair was nice enough to invite me into his office late Wednesday afternoon to discuss this after I inquired about a tip from a diligent, well-connected reader.

Click below for his comments.Mike Bair on "MSG, NY" being "cancelled:"

"It's not true. Like any TV place, we evaluate our shows all the time. 'MSG, NY' was part of our rebranding effort [as a channel devoted to all things Madison Square Garden]. It wasn’t performing quite the way we wanted. But we’re repurposing the show and actually expanding it and blowing it out, but only on game nights.

"We don’t want these to be classic postgame shows. We want these to be huge, round-the-horn, everything-that’s-important-to-a-basketball-or-hockey-fan [shows]."

Why the reluctance to use the word "cancel?"

"Cancel says you’re not going to do it. We’re taking a lot of the money from there and we’re investing it against extending it out an entire night."

On the original idea for "MSG, NY:"

"We had an idea. The idea was you go into the market and reposition yourself and what you want to be, and we still are, everything Madison Square Garden. We needed a nightly vehicle that would constantly reinforce that position, which it did. We’re now in a position where, OK, is the show doing everything we want? Is it generating the rating we want, particularly in the offseason, and is there a better way to redeploy the assets? That’s exactly what we’re doing."

Was this a budget thing?

"No, it’s a TV thing. Clearly it is a tough market, but we’ve had a lot of success with autos in the fourth quarter, because they still have a lot of inventory. And we've gotten a lot more interest in the Knicks, and the Rangers as well."

On increased access to players, especially on the Knicks:

"Because of the access we now have even more content we can use and talk around."

Bair does not expect any full-time staffers to lose jobs because of the moves. Deb Placey will focus on hockey, her area of expertise, mostly as a studio host. Tina Cervasio also will be redeployed.

Bair said even after failing to land the "Mike'd Up" simulcast when YES matched its bid, MSG still is looking into programming possibilities involving Mike Francesa.

Even though the sports/entertainment pairing on "MSG, NY" didn't quite work, Bair said entertainment programming will remain a key part of the network's programming approach.

"That's been a pleasant surprise. What it’s allowed us to do is access advertisers we couldn’t go to before. Any concert or any kind of show we put on, 'Earth, Wind and Fire,' or just a feature about 'AC/DC,' it gets a [ratings] number. So there is interest in it and there are very few outlets for it. But we know that on a nightly show, that’s not the ideal way to do it."

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