FCC Agrees Comcast Discriminated Against Tennis Channel By Carrying The Net On A Sports Tier
The FCC in a 3-2 decision "has voted to uphold an FCC judge's ruling that Comcast discriminated against Tennis Channel, but vacates his equitable channel placement remedy," according to John Eggerton of BROADCASTING & CABLE. The decision means Comcast "must provide Tennis Channel with the same level of distribution it gives similarly situated co-owned networks" Golf Channel and NBC Sports Network. However, Comcast "does not have to give it similar/adjacent channel positioning." The judge ordered that Comcast has 45 days "to comply with all but the channel placement portion of the order and must pay the $375,000 to the treasury." Judge Richard Sippel ruled in December that Comcast had "discriminated against Tennis Channel by carrying it in a sports tier." The FCC was reviewing that decision "given the precedential weight of his order that Comcast move Tennis Channel to Comcast's digital basic lineup and give it similar treatment as Golf Channel and NBC Sports Network, in which Comcast/NBCU has a financial stake." It is the "first time a network has prevailed in a program carriage complaint against a cable operator." Comcast "plans to appeal the decision" (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 7/24). In L.A., Meg James notes the finding "will be a huge competitive boost for the Tennis Channel." Comcast must now add Tennis Channel, "currently available in 34 million homes nationwide, into an additional 18 million households that subscribe to Comcast cable service." Such increased exposure, and "higher fees paid by Comcast, would give the Tennis Channel the ability to add more original programming to its lineup and provide coverage of additional tournaments" (L.A. TIMES, 7/25). The timing of the decision "is great for Tennis given that its US Open coverage begins Aug. 27" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 7/25).