Comcast, Byron Allen Reach Accord on Carriage

The long legal dispute between Comcast and Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios — one that wound up in the U.S. Supreme Court — has reached resolution.

ES and Comcast on June 11 reached a deal that extends Comcast’s carriage pact for The Weather Channel and 14 broadcast-television stations owned by Allen, the Entertainment Studios/Allen Media Group founder, chairman and CEO and a 2019 Broadcasting+Cable Hall of Fame inductee.

The pact also includes carriage of the ES-owned Comedy.TV, Recipe.TV and JusticeCentral.TV channels on Comcast’s X1 and Xfinity On Demand platforms.

Byron Allen and Comcast have struck a carriage deal for his networks after a legal battle.

Byron Allen and Comcast have struck a carriage deal for his networks after a legal battle.

“We’re excited to begin a new phase of partnership with Comcast and Xfinity, including the distribution of our cable channels for the first time on Xfinity platforms,” Allen said in a statement.

Comcast Cable senior VP of video and entertainment Rebecca Heap said: “We are pleased to have reached this multifaceted agreement that continues our long relationship with The Weather Channel while bringing Xfinity customers additional content. We look forward to an ongoing partnership.”

The deal effectively ends a five-year legal dispute between Allen and Comcast. Allen and the National Association of African-American Owned Media sued Comcast in 2015, alleging that the media company conspired to keep black-owned networks off its systems. A federal court dismissed the suit three times, but that decision was reversed by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals a year ago.

Comcast appealed that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, which this past March overruled the lower court, saying Allen “bears the burden” of showing that race was the “but for” cause of the alleged injury — in this case, lack of carriage.

In his lawsuit, Allen had challenged Comcast’s definition of diversity. “This case is not about African American-themed programming, but is about African-American ownership of networks,” Allen said in a statement issued last June when the Supreme Court took up the case. “Unfortunately, the networks Comcast refers to as ‘African American-owned’ are not wholly-owned by African Americans, and did
not get any carriage until I stood up and spoke out about this discrimination and economic exclusion.”

The deal comes on the heels of Comcast’s pledge to invest $100 million over the next three years to combat racism and advance social justice and equality.

Allen still has active a $10 billion lawsuit against Charter Communications filed in 2016 also claiming carriage discrimination.” 

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.