Tennis Channel Ruling Could Open Door for Future Challenges to Comcast
The Tennis Channel won a significant victory against Comcast on Wednesday, becoming the first network to win a ruling against the cable provider over its position in the lineup relative to other channels that provide similar content. The ruling could have a significant impact on future conflicts between Comcast and other independent networks.
Federal Communications Commission administrative law judge Richard Sippel ruled that Comcast must move the Tennis Channel from the premium sports tier to the more broadly distributed sports tier, where the Comcast-owned Golf Channel and Versus are located. Sippel found Comcast had "unreasonable restraints on the ability [for the Tennis Channel] to compete fairly." Comcast Vice President Sena Fitzmaurice told Hotline On Call that they were seeking a stay on the ruling for 50 days.
Other prominent networks have sparred with Comcast over channel positioning. Bloomberg TV, for example, has fought with Comcast over the positioning of its network in the cable listings lineup. In the Washington, D.C. market, CNN Headline News, CNN, FNC, MSNBC and CNBC occupy channels 35-39 while Bloomberg TV is channel 103. The concern raised by the Tennis Channel and Bloomberg was cited by critics when NBC Universal and Comcast merged earlier this year. Comcast was positioned to promote the networks it owned over the interests of the ones it did not, the argument went.
The Tennis Channel's victory gives a "glimmer of hope," as media watchdog group Free Press Policy Counsel Corie Wright put it, to other networks who might come into conflict with Comcast.