FCC Denies/Dismisses beIN Sports Complaint Against Comcast

The FCC has denied part and dismissed part of beIN Sports' program carriage complaint against Comcast.

It was the third complaint filed by the programmer, which argued that the Media Bureau, in an order released late Tuesday (July 2), concluded that beIN failed to make a case for discrimination against beIN en Español (beIN-E) because the FCC concluded that it was not similarly situated with Comcast's VPV Universo (that was the dismissed part).

It also concluded that while beIN Sports did establish a prima facie (on its face) case for discrimination against beIN, which it concluded was similarly situated to VPV NBC Sports Networks and was treated differently, that was not on the basis of affiliation or non-affiliation, so there was no violation of the Comcast/NBCU deal conditions. As a result, that complaint was dismissed.

Related: beIN Sports Renews TV Ratings Deal With Nielsen

The FCC prohibited the combined Comcast/NBCU from discriminating against competitors in favor of its own, affiliated and similarly situated, programming.

The beIN-E complaint was dismissed with prejudice, which means it can't be refiled.

In December 2018, the FCC had denied a third, add-on complaint filed by beIN Sports following that December filing. BeIN Sports has been off Comcast/Xfinity since July 31, 2018, over a fee dispute. AT&T and Verizon also dropped the channels over fee disputes.

“Our practices and decisions with respect to beIN’s programming are justified by clear data and marketplace facts," Comcast said about dropping the programming, describing the complaint as "just another attempt by beIN to use the regulatory process improperly to try to extract non-market carriage terms from Comcast."

Back in March 2018, beIN Sports filed its initial complaint, saying the cable operator had violated both the program carriage rules and a nondiscrimination condition in its NBCU purchase agreement, violations it said had occurred before the Jan. 20, 2018, expiration of that deal condition.

BeIN was looking at the bright side and mulling its options following the Media Bureau decision.

“We are pleased that the Media Bureau Order recognizes that beIN Sports is similarly situated to NBC Sports and Comcast’s differential treatment of beIN has the effect of unreasonably restraining beIN from competing fairly," it said. "Nonetheless, we are disappointed with the overall outcome of the Media Bureau’s order. In deciding the case in this manner, the Media Bureau erroneously took it upon itself to decide the merits based on Comcast’s raw assertions without testing the evidence in an adversarial proceeding, as is typical in these cases. In our continuing effort to place fans first, beIN Sports USA will review options concerning this Order and take appropriate steps to deliver our programming to the widest possible audience.”

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.