Somers backs Charter's sports play


Chicago - AT&T Broadband CEO Dan Somers surprised cable executives Tuesday when he acknowledged that he supports Charter Communications CEO Jerry Kent's semi-quixotic call for Congressional intervention to blunt the surge in sports networks' charges to operators.

"I fully support what Jerry said," Somers said in Tuesday's opening session. "I would supports regulatory action. I think sports has to step back and look at how it manages itself."

But Somers didn't have a lot of company on the panel. "I'd rather see this resolved in the boardroom than inside the Beltway," said Insight Communications CEO Michael Willner, who is likely to become the next chairman of NCTA's board. "Once Washington gets involved in an internal problem in an industry, all sorts of scary consequences can result."

Top NCTA executives have been working hard to make the association's members understand why it's important to keep the legislative spotlight off the cable industry. They worry that, if cable were to push Washington to solve problems through new regulation, cable could end up with less desirable solutions, such as a new round of rate regulation or tougher rules on access to programming.

But just because Willner doesn't support new legislation doesnn't mean he is happy about the spiraling costs of sports programming, which have been rising at rates of 15% to 20% annually.

"Twenty-percent increases don't work. It doesn't economically work," he said. "Something has to give."
- Paige Albiniak