Comcast Asks FCC to Block TAC’s Bid

Comcast is asking the Federal Communications Commission to rule that The America Channel is not a regional sports network entitled under the agency’s Adelphia Communications merger conditions to obtain carriage via commercial arbitration.

In a filing Wednesday, Comcast said it was seeking the ruling after TAC notified the company Jan. 17 of its intent to go to arbitration in order to obtain carriage from the country’s largest pay TV provider. TAC has been rebuffed by Comcast, as well as other pay TV distributors, for many years.

In approving the Adelphia merger in July, the FCC held that unaffiliated RSNs unable to obtain carriage from Comcast or Time Warner Cable could seek arbitration in order for subscribers to obtain access to programming otherwise not available.

Last month, TAC issued a release that it had reached a multiyear agreement with a number of NCAA Division I conferences to television 200 hours per year of collegiate athletic events, including basketball, football, volleyball, track and field, lacrosse and field hockey. TAC announced its SportsLife slate after routinely billing itself as a channel largely about “communities, campuses, real heroes and ordinary people who accomplish the extraordinary.”

In a 72-page filing, Comcast said TAC shouldn’t be treated as an RSN under the Adelphia provisions because “TAC has never launched its network, has never produced any quantity of programming” and has failed to show that it has “sufficient funding to actually launch and sustain a viable network.” Comcast added that TAC has always had national, not regional, ambitions.

“We don't believe Comcast's claim has any merit, procedurally or substantively,” TAC CEO Doron Gorshein said in a prepared statement. “Comcast is trying to circumvent the commission's arbitration rules and relitigate the Adelphia order.”

He continued, “Further, Comcast's claim that TAC is not an RSN cannot be squared with the plain language of the commission's rules or the facts about TAC's extensive regional sports rights. Comcast filed at the FCC without even asking us about our holdings, which is indicative of their anti-competitive motive.”