Cablevision won’t let Verizon have a high-definition feed of its MSG channels. In response, Verizon is petitioning the Federal Communications Commission to step in and force cable operators to sell access to their sports.
Cablevision owns Madison Square Garden, along with the Knicks and Rangers, who play there. For TV providers in the New York area, having access to those games is a critical advantage.
Three years ago, the FCC compelled Cablevision to sell Verizon access to MSG programming, in response to a petition from Verizon. Cablevision elected to sell access to an SD feed, but not an HD feed.
Of course, access to HD sports programming has become a competitive issue across the country. Verizon, in its complaint to the FCC, notes that AT&T has filed a similar complaint against Cox Communications concerning access to sports programming in the San Diego market. Verizon also complains about access to sports in the Philadelphia market, though the company refrained from naming Comcast.
In its filing (available here) with the FCC, Verizon told the Commission that "the cable incumbents' documented history of abusing their control of regional sports networks and other regional sports programming to deny consumers a meaningful competitive choice is a real and ongoing problem that must be addressed."