Comcast Hit With Program Carriage Complaint

Sports network beIN Sports has filed a program carriage complaint against Comcast, saying the cable operator has violated both the program carriage rules and a nondiscrimination condition in its NBCU purchase, which it said occurred before the Jan. 20 expiration of that condition.

It is complaining that Comcast puts its networks in a sports tier with lower penetration than its owned sports programming, and that there is no other reasonable explanation of that placement other than Comcast wanting to favor its own programming in violation of FCC rules and its merger condition. It wants the court to enjoin Comcast from "further carriage discrimination," which means carriage on "equitable terms" that doesn't "unreasonably restrict beIN's ability to compete fairly."

Related: Comcast Launching NPR as App on X1 Platform

In a complaint filed with the FCC, beIN says Comcast/NBCU discriminated against it in favor of NBC's "similarly situated" sports programming, NBC Sports and NBC Universo. It says that other distributors--Charter, CenturyLink, Frontier, FuboTV, Liberty Puerto Rico, Prism and Verizon--give the nets greater penetration, so it is not a case of Comcast treating beIN as other distributors do.

BeIN says that Comcast has it wrong when it says the "similarly situated" language applies to networks rather than programming.

"The Commission has already found that a sports network focused on football (the NFL Network) is similarly situated to Comcast-affiliated networks focused on golf, fishing and hunting programming," it told the commission. "Here, the similarity among the programming of the four networks in question is much more pronounced."

BeIN says its networks, beIN and beIN en Español and NBC Sports and NBC Universo each provide hundreds of live soccer games yearly and have the same target audience and targeted advertisers, and even have roughly the same audience even allowing for beIN's lower penetration.

A Comcast spokesperson was not available for comment at press time.

“Comcast was one of the first distributors to launch both beIN Sports channels in 2012 and continues to be a good partner to the network," asid Comcast in a statement. "In fact, we have maintained our market-based distribution of beIN Sports, consistent with how it is carried by most other cable and satellite providers.Unfortunately, rather than continue to engage in good-faith commercial negotiations for a renewal of its current agreement, which does not even expire for several months, beIN Sports has disappointingly filed this complaint, which is completely without merit. Comcast has not discriminated against beIN Sports. Instead, beIN has demanded substantial increases in fees and carriage that make no business sense for our company and our customers.”

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.