SBD/Issue 20/Sports Media

FCC Rules In Favor Of NFL Network In Dispute With Comcast

 
The FCC Friday sided with the NFL in its long-running programming dispute with Comcast, ruling the MSO "should carry the league's NFL Network on its popular digital cable package," according to the AP. The FCC in the ruling stated that Comcast "discriminated against the NFL Network by agreeing to carry the channel only on a more expensive sports cable service." The ruling now goes before an administrative law judge, "who could force Comcast to carry the NFL programming at a certain price" (AP, 10/10). Sources said that four FCC commissioners in a joint e-mail sent Friday afternoon "complained that the matter should be turned over to an administrative law judge for an opinion first." But the WALL STREET JOURNAL's Schatz & Futterman reported FCC Chair Kevin Martin "was pressing the agency's staff to rule in favor of the NFL without a full commission vote." A "sympathetic ruling from the FCC would essentially save the NFL Network, which has operated in near oblivion" since its '03 launch. Meanwhile, the decision "will likely cost roughly [$0.70] per month in addition to recent rate hikes" for Comcast subs and other MSOs, as cable providers "are likely to pass the fees they would have to pay the NFL onto their consumers" (WSJ.com, 10/11).

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