ACA Tells FCC RSNs Still a Problem

The American Cable Association (ACA) told the FCC Monday that there was still government work to do to make access to regional sports nets a competitive marketplace, while Comcast said it was time for the government to do less, not more, in that space. 

In comments on an upcoming report on that topic per the FCC's own self-imposed deadline, ACA said that the report has to focus on pricing of vertically integrated RSN's to rival video providers, which it says is an inherent problem the program access rules have not remedied, and an industry-wide problem that needs a comprehensive, and overdue, examination.

"Access to competitively significant networks like RSNs on fair terms is essential to the promotion of robust competition among multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs)," said ACA President and CEO Matt Polka, of the comments. "But all too often, fair competition is a mirage because RSNs owned by large MVPDs have the incentive and ability to undermine distribution rivals by making them pay excessive fees, knowing that they cannot obtain effective relief at the FCC."

By Jan. 2012, the FCC, by its own order, must produce a report on the state of the regional sports network market because it set that deadline of six months before the expiration of the RSN access conditions on Comcast and Time Warner's purchase of Adelphia cable systems out of bankruptcy. It recently (July 26, 2011, exactly a year before the Adelphia RSN conditions expire) sought further comment for the report on the impact of intervening events including the commission's 2007 and 2010 program access rule revisions, as well as access conditions in the Comcast–NBCU deal.

For its part, Comcast this week told the commission in its comments, says the marketplace is intensely competitive and that, in fact, no program access or carriage regs are needed anymore. It says the FCC report should reflect that competition is a significant restraint on anticompetitive conduct.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.