FCC refers Comcast/Tennis Channel dispute to judge


An administrative law judge will hear arguments from Comcast Cable Communications and The Tennis Channel in a dispute not on carriage of the latter’s cable sports offering, but rather on the latter’s positioning on Comcast’s tier menu.

TC wants to be placed on a modestly priced tier along with broadly-distributed channels; instead, it finds itself included on a premium sports tier that limits its access to subscribers. TC says that Comcast-owned sports channels such as The Golf Channel, Versus and regional sports offerings are placed on lower-priced tiers, leading to TC’s claim that it is being subjected to discrimination from the cable MVPD.

“After reviewing The Tennis Channel’s complaint,” wrote the FCC, “we find that The Tennis Channel has put forth sufficient evidence supporting the elements of its program carriage discrimination claim to establish a prima facie case.”

FCC declined to rule on the case, however, and referred it for a hearing before an ALJ.

Both companies issued statements indicating their expectation to prevail in the dispute.

Tennis Channel said, “We look forward to presenting our full case, and we are confident that when the matter is finally resolved, Comcast will have been found definitively to have illegally discriminated against Tennis Channel and in favor of its owned sports services.”

Comcast said, “We look forward to refuting this groundless complaint in a full evidentiary hearing before an Administrative Law Judge at the FCC. Comcast currently makes the Tennis Channel available to nearly every home we serve. Far from discriminating against Tennis Channel, we are fully honoring the terms of our agreement with Tennis Channel and plan to continue carrying the network for our customers and tennis fans.”