In a meeting with a key staffer of FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, representatives of Bloomberg LP said it was only reasonable that its cable financial news network be housed in the same tier and channel neighborhood as CNBC in the event that Comcast and NBCU are allowed to merge.
The meeting was with Copps media advisor Joshua Cinelli, and included Bloomberg’s Gregory Babyak and three employees of Patton Boggs, including Stephen Diaz Gavin, Matthew Berry and Janet Moran.
Summarizing the meeting, Gavin wrote, “The conditions discussed included the reasonableness of requiring Comcast to ‘neighborhood’ business news channels, specifically the placement of business news channels on channels contiguous and adjacent to CNBC on each tier where CNBC is carried. As a result of the transaction, Comcast would have the ability and incentive to favor its own programming, particularly as it relates to NECU’s second most profitable channel, CNBC, and disadvantage rivals to its affiliated programming, such as Bloomberg® TV (BTV), the last independent video channel for news programming.”
Gavin concluded, “Neighborhooding is an appropriate remedy because it heightens viewer choice by making channels in the same genre easier to find; it is easily implemented in light of the conversion of enhanced basic subscribers to digital and does not impose burdens on Comcast; and other video distribution platfonns already neighborhood channels according to genre.”
Bloomberg’s representatives also noted that the current carriage complaint system is two expensive and time-consuming to be an effective remedy.
RBR-TVBR observation: MVPD decisions on what programming services to carry and where to place them in the channel lineup are a general source of controversy – there is never any shortage of programming services that feel they are not getting a fair shake. Conditions set on the Comcast/NBCU merger may set precedents that other MVPDs would rather avoid.