DirecTV, DISH Formally Ask for Access to Comcast RSN
Requests follow OMB's greenlight to complaints based on FCC decision to close terrestrial exemption
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 6/25/2010 12:13:56 PM
"We have formally requested the programming," said DirecTV spokesman Robert Mercer. He had no comment on whether DirecTV would file a complaint with the FCC if Comcast did not make Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia available.
"[We] received their request and will review in due course and respond accordingly," said Comcast spokesman Tim Fitzpatrick. He would not elaborate, but he confirmed that DISH has also "recently" requested access to the channel in Philadelphia. A DISH spokesperson was not available for comment at press time.
The requests follow the FCC's notice that the complaint-process portion of its January decision to close the so-called terrestrial exemption had been approved, thus clearing the way for complaints.
The FCC in January changed its rules to say that distributors who did not make their co-owned terrestrially delivered nets available to competitors on reasonable terms and conditions would be presumptively in violation of its program-access rules. Before that the FCC had exempted terrestrial nets, in most cases regional sports nets (RSNs), because of language in the statute that specified the access rules applied to satellite-delivered networks.
In advance of the Office of Management and Budget's approval of the complaints process based on the Paperwork Reduction Act, Cox agreed to start negotiating with AT&T and others in San Diego over access to Padres games. AT&T also made its own formal request for MSG Nets HD programming in Connecticut, giving MSG and parent company Cablevision 10 days to begin negotiating before it would ask the FCC to make them.
"MSG complies with federal regulations," said an MSG spokesman. "We are pleased to have AT&T as a customer and to provide U-Verse subscribers in Connecticut with access to every single game on MSG and MSG Plus."
MSG does provide the standard-definition versions; however, the spokesman would not elaborate on whether the network planned to make the HD versions available. Part of the FCC's decision was that operators could not satisfy the access requirement by making standard-definition feeds available, but not HD feeds.
Cablevision has challenged the FCC's program-access rules in court. Comcast has not and told legislators at a Hill hearing on the Comcast-NBC Universal deal that it has no plans to do so.
In written answers to Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) on the issue of access to affiliated nets, Comcast Chairman Brian Roberts said that it was ready to make Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia available to DirecTV as soon as the satellite operator made its exclusive Sunday Ticket package avaiable to Comcast and others.
Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia is already available to competing cable operators. RCN has carried the net since its launch in 1997, says Fitzpatrick, and Verizon's FiOS since that service launched in Philadelphia.
But it has not made it available to satellite operators, which, the company points out, have exclusive programming like Sunday Ticket (access to all NFL Sunday games in once package) that help differentiate the service.
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