Like the city it calls home, Madison Square Garden (MSG) is the entertainment company that never sleeps. While known for its legendary Madison Square Garden Arena, the company owns or operates additional venues, including Radio City Music Hall (home of the leggy Rockettes), the Chicago Theatre, and the Beacon Theater. MSG also owns sports teams the New York Knicks of the NBA and the NHL's New York Rangers, which operate as part of the company's MSG Sports segment. Its MSG Media unit distributes programming through outlets such as cable music network Fuse, and MSG Entertainment produces or hosts live shows at the company's various venues. MSG was spun off from Rainbow Media Holdings (now AMC Networks) in 2010.
Cable system operator Cablevision spun off MSG from its Rainbow Media unit as part of an effort to streamline operations and focus on its cable systems and network programming. The separation also allowed MSG to pursue its growth strategy free from the burden of being part of a much larger organization. James Dolan, who's family controls Cablevision, continues to serve as executive chairman of MSG after the spin-off and his family remains as controlling shareholders of the separated business. The deal valued MSG at about $1.5 billion.
Sports and entertainment venues, content, and distibution assets are complementary components of MSG's diverse portfolio that bring in revenue streams across multiple channels. The company's sports franchises (which also include the WNBA's New York Liberty) provide an anchor attraction for its Manhattan venue as well as content for its MSG cable network that broadcasts sports coverage. By focusing on its sports teams, MSG hopes to generate greater revenue through ticket sales and concessions at Madison Square Garden while boosting viewership (and advertising sales) on its MSG Networks (including the MSG Network, MSG Plus, MSG HD, and MSG Plus HD). The strategy appears to be working, as the company experienced an increase in revenues and net income in 2009 and 2010, primarily the result of strength in its media business.
In non-sports related entertainment, the company produces or hosts big names in music and other live performances. MSG Entertainment makes use of its various venues to book shows by established acts such as Elton John, Phish, and Prince, along with newer acts such as Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, and Kings of Leon. MSG Entertainment has a partnership with Cirque du Soleil to bring to Cirque shows such as Wintuk to MSG's multiple venues.The Radio City Christmas Spectacular, featuring the Rockettes, remains a popular New York institution, and was seen by approximately 1.7 million people in 2010. All total, Madison Square Garden plays host to about 400 events every year.
MSG's plans for improving its sports and entertainment assets include a renovation project (started in 2011) for Madison Square Garden that is expected to cost between $775 million and $850 million. MSG hopes renovations to the iconic building will be completed by 2013. The overhaul of the more than 40-year-old arena reflects the company's commitment to invest in its core assets.
The company named Cablevision vice chairman Hank Ratner as its CEO in 2009. The Dolan family controls approximately 70% of MSG's total voting power. – less