If you have been to Las Vegas lately, you’ve for sure noticed the giant black dome rising behind the Venetian Resort and Casino. That would be the MSG Sphere, the Strip’s latest entertainment venue. When it opens later this year, it’s sure to compete with the Vegas Golden Knights home arena T-Mobile Arena for concerts and large-scale events.
Unlike its counterpart in New York City, the “world’s most famous arena” Madison Square Garden, its Vegas cousin will have no sports teams. Just like its New York cousin, it will have the same ownership group.
Well, at least it was supposed to. The high price tag, almost $1.8 billion, might lead MSG Entertainment to split in two. One company would control the Vegas project, any future MSG Spheres and the TAO nightclub brand. MSG’s other assets (MSG in New York, Radio City Music Hall, etc.) would be spun off into a separate entity, with the current MSG Entertainment still holding a 25% stake.
There’s a new and expensive MSG opening in Las Vegas. Its hefty price tag might lead to a new parent company for a New York regional sports network.
The New York Rangers, who call MSG home, were already spun off into a separate company called “MSG Sports,” also controlled by MSG owner James Dolan. Dolan might be the most hated man in New York sports, even making Bettman look good at times. Dolan has been known to ban fans from the arena from being critical of him. Bettman never booed anyone for booing.
While, at first glance, it might seem like the proposed spinoff wouldn’t affect the NHL, there is something else at stake in certain teams broadcasting rights. MSG Networks, the company’s regional sports network, has the broadcasting rights for all three New York area NHL teams in the Rangers, New Jersey Devils, and New York Islanders. Even the Buffalo Sabres are broadcast on an MSG branded network. Under the proposed split, MSG Networks would become a part of the “new” MSG Company.
There’s a chance that business could remain as usual there. There’s also a chance that things change since “old” MSG only owns 25% of the new venture. MSG Networks could end up like Fox Sports channels did. After Disney bought 20th Century Fox in 2017, the United States government required them to sell off the Fox Sports regional channels as a condition of the sale, since Disney owns ESPN. Those channels were bought by Sinclair broadcasting, which sold the naming rights to Bally’s, making all the channels fall under the “Bally’s Sports” brand.
There’s no reason they should get rid of the iconic MSG name, especially considering that’s where some of their programmings calls home. Unlike Bally Sports, the “old” MSG parent company will still own at least part of the network. Then again, considering the Bally Sports deal was worth $85 million, it’s a hard deal for a company to turn down. Considering the impact of the New York media market any potential deal could be worth a lot more.
MSG Entertainment has officially moved forward with at least the first step of spinning off its assets. Dolan has not made any announcement on the teams, so let’s call this “educated speculation” from MSG analyst Jonathan Boyar. Dolan would later come out and deny the news, via MSG’s senior VP of communications and marketing Natalie Ravitz.
First things first, the MSG Sphere has to open. Selling off or spinning off, whatever corporate parlance you want to us, MSG networks could free up valuable cash and that’s the point. It might not be immediate, but hockey broadcasts in the New York area could start looking different in the not too distant future.