Cox has decided to make Padres baseball games available to AT&T,
DirecTV and DISH, settling a long-standing dispute over access to what
its competitors argued was must-have sports programming.
last Jaunuary voted to get rid of the exemption from access regulations
for terrestrially delivered regional nets like Cox-4 in San Diego,
which has the rights to the Padres games.
Under the FCC's newly
narrowed rules, cable operators that do not share their owned
terrestrially delivered regional sports networks with their competitors
will be presumed to be in violation FCC rules against unfair acts or
"We are using Fox networks to help us negotiate
potential negotiation deals with other folks for Channel 4," said Cox
spokesman Todd Smith, citing both "business reasons" and the FCC's rule
change. Why Fox? "They are used to negotiating carriage deals and we are
used to distributing networks," said Cox.
He said there is no
deal yet, but that Cox has "contacted other carriers that have expressed
interest in the past." He confirmed that includes AT&T as well as
DISH and DirecTV.
Back in March 2009, the FCC denied AT&T's
program access complaint against Cox. The telephone company had said
Cox's refusal to give it access to must-have San Diego Padres games on
Cox-4 hampered AT&T's effort to acquire and retain subs for U-verse.
FCC said that since Cox-4 was terrestrially delivered, it was beyond
the FCC's reach because of the terrestrial exemption. While cable
operators were required by law to provide nondiscriminatory access to
"satellite-delivered" channels in which they own a financial interest,
the FCC had felt constrained by that language when it came to complaints
against terrestrially-delivered networks like some regional news/sports
Now, the FCC has invited those whose complaints had been
rejected under the old scheme to take another crack. AT&T did, and
Federal Communications Commission's order was very helpful along with
their willingness to convene a meeting to get all parties together," said
AT&T in a statement. "We are now in negotiations with Cox and are
hopeful that this issue can be resolved so our customers can enjoy the baseball
season and cheer for the home team."