Sports net fracas

Cablevision exex under gun in net complaint

WASHINGTON — Nine Cablevision System execs will be lining up next week to be deposed by lawyers for Classics Sports Network in a legal dispute that refuses to fizzle out despite ownership changes at both companies.

In a complaint filed earlier this year at the Federal Communications Commission, CSN claims that Cablevision execs demanded an equity stake in the network in return for a broad carriage agreement. CSN also claims that when Cablevision execs were rejected, the Long Island-based company announced that it was launching a rival network.

CSN announced that it had filed the complaint on the same day last March that Cablevision announced it was launching American Sports Classics — which like CSN, will rely on replaying classic sporting events for its programming.

Last month CSN, which claims 10 million current subscribers, was acquired by ESPN in a $175 million deal. American Sports Classics, which has yet to be launched, is now 50% owned by Cablevision’s programming arm Rainbow Programming and 50% owned by Fox/Liberty Sports.

Laundry list

Among the execs slated to be deposed by CSN lawyers are Cablevision CEO James Dolan, vice chairman Mark Lustgarten, programming vice president Mac Budill and Rainbow Sports VP Mike Bair. An FCC administrative law judge rejected CSN’s request to depose CEO Charles Dolan.

“What this case has always been about is program access and being able to play on a level playing field,” said CSN prexy Steven Greenberg.

Cablevision spokesman Charles Schueler said Friday that his company did nothing improper and will be exonerated at an FCC hearing slated for Jan. 20. “The decision in this case will be based on factual evidence presented at the hearing on its merits, and not based on unsupported allegations of wrongdoing,” said Schueler, adding, “It is surprising that ESPN is continuing to use the FCC to attempt to force Cablevision to carry their newest programming service.”

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