NCTC High-Sticks OLN

In a slap shot directed at Comcast Corp.’s OLN, the National Cable Television Cooperative Monday filed a complaint in a Kansas District State Court against the network, saying that it breached its licensing deal with NCTC members after requiring minimum subscriber-distribution levels for its National Hockey League telecasts.

The complaint claimed that OLN, in a letter to NCTC officials this past September, violated its current multiyear deal by forcing NCTC members to distribute OLN to at least 40% of their subscribers in order to receive the network’s NHL package of 50 regular-season games, as well as postseason and Stanley Cup Finals telecasts.

Systems not meeting the subscriber-penetration requirements would face a deletion of the games or an undefined surcharge to carry the NHL telecasts, the complaint said.

“OLN’s imposition of penetration requirements and OLN’s asserted right to impose surcharges is completely at odds with the certainty our members have bargained for and the members’ ability to serve their customers’ best interests,” NCTC interim president and CEO Tom Gleason said in a statement released Tuesday, adding that the NCTC’s current OLN deals provide members with clearly defined rates and carriage requirements.

“Outdoor Life Network has unilaterally imposed new contract terms in connection with its carriage of NHL games, and we maintain that they do not have the right to do so,” he added.

But OLN spokeswoman Amy Phillips said in a prepared statement that the network “does not understand NCTC's lawsuit. We have been providing NCTC with the full package of NHL games on OLN at no additional cost to NCTC or its members.”

Last month, Cablevision Systems Corp. capitulated to OLN’s 40% subscriber-penetration requirement by moving the network from a sports tier to its highly penetrated basic-cable tier.

EchoStar Communications Corp.’s Dish Network, however, dropped OLN after failing to reach a carriage deal regarding the network’s NHL package.

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.