FCC Dismisses NFL/Comcast Complaint; Ends Proceeding

Carriage agreement leads to judge's dismissal of case

Administrative Law Judge Richard Sippel has officially put an end to the program carriage complaint filed by the NFL against Comcast.

That is because the two struck a carriage agreement late Tuesday that had both parties talking about fresh starts and mutual benefits after having hammered away at each other during the FCC hearing on the complaint before Judge Sippel last month.

The NFL had complained that Comcast discriminated against its NFL Network by moving it to a sports tier. Comcast had countered that it moved it to the tier to save money in subscriber fees. But since the root issue was the NFL's desire to be carried more broadly rather than on a tier that viewers paid extra for, the new deal essentially mooted the complaint.

In a one-page order, the judge dismissed the complaint with prejudice and terminated the proceeding. "With prejudice" means that it was for a good reason and the plaintiff, in this case NFL, could not re-file it on the same grounds.

Judge Sippel still has to decide the carriage complaint of Wealth TV against a quartet of cable operators, which was also the subject of a hearing in the past month, and is currently hearing testimony in a third program carriage complaint, that of the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network against Comcast.

Comcast and the NFL filed a joint motion to dismiss the complaint on Tuesday.

The two are also unwinding their suit and countersuit over the same issue in the New York State Supreme Court.

It was not clear at press time whether the fact that the parties have dropped the complaint, and the judge has dismissed it, means the FCC is done with the complaint, but it would appear that way.

In a footnote, the order says the the FCC's Enforcement Bureau. which was a party to the hearing, "has no objection" to the judge's ruling.