Comcast Wins Protective Order In beIN Sports Dispute


On March 15, counsel to fast-growing MVPD-distributed premium sports network beIN Sports submitted a program carriage complaint against Comcast. The 49-page complaint from beIN’s Deputy Managing Director for the U.S. and Canada, Antonio Briceño, and a trio of Steptoe & Johnson LLP attorneys, alleges Comcast violated the FCC’s non-discrimination requirement.

In short, beIN Sports wants its channels similarly situated next to those owned by Comcast’s NBCUniversal unit: NBC Sports Network and Universo.

There’s lots of redacted language in the complaint. Now, Comcast gets its chance to omit highly sensitive business information from the public record as it continues to defend itself against the Miami-based sports networks.

In the March complaint, beIN Sports argues that “as many as seven distributors—Charter, CenturyLink, Frontier, FuboTV, Liberty Puerto Rico, Prism and Verizon—give beIN access to tiers with greater penetration than the packages to which Comcast has consigned beIN.”

That’s discriminatory, beIN SPORTS alleges, because of the programming similarities between beIN SPORTS’ English-language and Spanish-language feeds and that of NBC Sports Network and Universo, which has added a significant amount of sports programming since morphing from Mun2.

It wants the FCC to step in, and essentially order Comcast to shift beIN SPORTS’ feeds to channel positions that match its NBC Sports Network and Universo.

Comcast commented by telling Fierce Cable, a cable TV industry trade publication, that “Comcast was one of the first distributors to launch both beIN Sports channels in 2012 and continues to be a good partner to the network.”

Comcast then accuses beIN SPORTS of using the FCC to gain leverage in its retransmission fee negotiations.

“Rather than continue to engage in good-faith commercial negotiations for a renewal of its current agreement, which does not even expire for several months, beIN Sports has disappointingly filed this complaint, which is completely without merit,” company spokesperson Jenni Moyer said. “Comcast has not discriminated against beIN Sports. Instead, beIN has demanded substantial increases in fees and carriage that make no business sense for our company and our customers.”

A Special Relief and Show Cause Petition ended up as Docket No. 18-90 in late March. On April 30, Comcast submitted a request for “enhanced confidential treatment” for its pleadings and answers to any FCC queries in the program carriage complaint.

Comcast suggested the use of a Protective Order. The FCC agreed, signing off on it Friday (5/14).

This will limit distribution to outside counsel and their consultants/employees for “Comcast’s internal viewership analyses conducted by its Enterprise Business Intelligence (‘EBI’) team, including any underlying data, quotations, descriptions, methodologies, or specific information derived from such data (in the aggregate, ‘EBI Viewership
Analyses’), related set-top box viewership data,” and affiliation agreements between Comcast and its NBC Sports Network and Universo.

BeIn Sports, created by Al Jazeera Media Networks, is presently owned and operated by beIN Media Group.