The live entertainment and cable network company’s shares are hitting record highs as even non-basketball fans become fascinated with New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin’s historic scoring streak. MSG’s at $32.24 in midday trading, up 3.5% vs Friday — and +11.3% so far in the month of February. The timing couldn’t be better for MSG Chairman Jim Dolan. The company — which owns the Knicks, the Garden, and regional sports channels MSG and MSG+ — needed a good story to tell after last year’s NBA work stoppage contributed to a dreary year-end financial report. And if Lin-sanity continues, then it could give Dolan the upper hand in his showdown with Time Warner Cable. Due to a contract dispute, MSG’s channels have been dark on the cable system since the beginning of the year. Time Warner Cable balked at MSG’s price demands, and also wants to drop MSG’s low-rated Fuse music channel. Dolan took a huge risk by holding out: Time Warner Cable accounts for about 2.5M MSG subscribers, about a third of its total. The $112M that the cable company pays annually for the channels amounts to about half of Madison Square Garden’s estimated cash flow for its current fiscal year. The company said last week that no talks with the cable provider have been scheduled. But Time Warner Cable may find itself playing defense if many of the basketball fans among its New York customers decide to switch to a different pay TV provider so they can see how Lin’s story unfolds.
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