Washington

Cable Companies Leverage Fox Decision in Comcast/NBCU Argument

Point to Cablevision subscriber blockage in case for online access conditions 10/20/2010 05:29:31 PM Eastern

The American
Cable Association, DirecTV and Dish have have joined those using Fox's
decision to briefly block Cablevision subscribers from Fox online
content as leverage in their argument for online
access conditions on the Comcast/NBCU merger.

In a letter
to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, the companies said that "if Fox, an
entity with no affiliation to a distribution platform, was willing to
deny certain viewers access to its online content
in order to gain a negotiating advantage, a vertically integrated
Comcast/NBCU would have an even greater incentive and ability to take
similar action."

Comcast has
declined comment on tying the two cases together, but has pointed out
in the past that it has never even lost access to the primary signal of
any TV station during retrans discussions.

ACA et al
said that Fox's online move, which a source familiar Fox's thinking said
was an effort not to weaken its negotiating position by giving subs
access to Fox programming, was a "timely illustration
both of the extent to which online content has become an integral part
of the television viewing landscape and of the opportunities for
disadvantaging MVPDs this development would present to Comcast/NBCU."

Public
Knowledge, Free Press and Rep. Ed Markey (D-MAss.) are among those who
have also linked Fox's move the issue of access to online content,
including access to Comcast and NBCU content.

ACQA, DISH and DirecTV (and Public Knowlege) are all members of the American Television Alliance,

a collection of companies that have petitioned the FCC to reform what
they say is a broken retrans system that favors broadcasters and harms
consumers.

Broadcasters
argue just as strongly that it is a marketplace negotiation, that most
deals are done without interruptions, and that they are simlpy trying to
get fair market value for programming that
is among the most popular on cable.

November