Comcast Asks FCC to Deny, Dismiss Tennis Channel Complaint

Cable net wants carriage on basic tier instead of premium sports tier
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Comcast has told the FCC that the Tennis Channel's program carriage complaint is baseless, is beyond the statute of limitations for such complaints and should be denied and dismissed.

In that response, Comcast Cable President Steve Burke also took aim at Tennis Channel's use of his quote about affiliated networks being treated like siblings rather than strangers.

The channel filed a complaint last month saying the nation's largest cable operator had discriminated against it in favor of its own networks by placing Tennis on a premium sports tier while Versus and The Golf Channel are on basic tiers available to many more subscribers.

Tennis has been trying to get on Comcast's basic tier for some time--Comcast declined to reposition the channel when Tennis Channel proposed it last year, saying it would be "cost-prohibitive." But Comcast's high-profile play for NBC U provided an opportunity for Tennis to try and leverage that attention.

In its reply to the FCC, a copy of which was supplied to B&C, Comcast points out that it is simply following the contract the two parties agreed to. Moving it off the sports tier, Comcast points out, would provide the channel with wider distribution than it gets on "any major distributor," says Comcast.

While Tennis Channel says it has upgraded its production and event lineups and is now on par with Versus and Golf Channel, Comcast says there is "no demand" by systems of subscribers for wider distribution of the Tennis Channel that would justify the "dramatically increased" license fees that broader distribution would mean for Comcast and its customers.

"Tennis Channel is effectively asking the Commission to mandate, by regulatory fiat, vastly greater carriage than the level Tennis Channel itself asked for and that no other major MVPD has ever afforded to the network," the company said.

Burke said that it wrong for the Tennis Channel to suggest his quote about siblings, from an FCC proceeding in which the NFL Network was seeking wider carriage, buttressed their case.

"My statement was simply an observation that individuals from Comcast Cable and Comcast's affiliated network group (‘Programming Group') are known to each other by virtue of physical proximity. They work in the same office building and share common company facilities such as meeting rooms, cafeteria, and fitness center."

He adds that when asked to clarify during the proceeding, "I explained that ‘the people exist in the same building' and ‘it's just a different relationship because they're physically part of the same company. To the degree that they're physically close by, they would naturally get more attention or time than a channel that may not be part of the company.'"

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