Comcast, MASN Settle Carriage Dispute

Comcast and the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network have reached a settlement of their legal fight over carriage of the sports network.

The parties have jointly asked, and been granted, dismissal of MASN's program carriage complaint, which was being considered by Federal Communications Commission chief administrative law judge Richard Sippel. Sippel, who had encouraged the parties to work out a deal, wasted no time issuing the order terminating the proceeding.

It was one of three complaints referred to an ALJ by the commission. Sippel has already ruled against WealthTV in one complaint, while Comcast and the NFL settled the other. As it stands, WealthTV's is the only complaint that will go back to the full commission for a final decsion (the ALJ decision is essentially a recommended outcome to the full commission).

According to MASN, the new agreement means that Comcast will be carrying Nationals and Orioles games "as early as 2010."

"We are pleased to have come to settlement with MASN in a way that benefits Comcast, MASN and our mutual customers," said Comcast in a statement. "We are eager to move forward in this partnership with MASN."

Neither party would discuss deal terms.

MASN had alleged that Comcast discriminated against it by refusing to carry the regional sports net in Harrisburg, Pa., the Tri-Cities region of southwestern Virginia, and Roanoke and Lynchburg, both Virginia, as well as "in various cable systems in smaller communities where Comcast has cable systems within MASN's territory."

The FCC's Enforcement Bureau had told Sippel back in August that it did not believe MASN had made its case for mandatory carriage those systems.

Both the MASN and WealthTV complaints had hearings in the spring before Sippel, who decided against Wealth TV, but had issued no decision on the MASN complaint

The NFL Network and Comcast reached a carriage settlement on the third complaint that obviated the need for a Sippel decision on that complaint. That NFL Net deal included offering the network on a more highly viewed digital tier.

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.