Tennis Channel lobs FCC complaint at Comcast

Cabler says operator is in violation of carriage rules

Tennis Channel has served up the latest cable battle, filing a complaint with the FCC against Comcast.

The cable network charges that Comcast has violated the FCC’s program carriage rules by keeping the Tennis Channel on its added-cost premium sports tier. Comcast, however, has called the compaint “groundless.”

According to Tennis, it is hampered by being seen by just 2.6 million Comcast homes, as opposed to provider’s 23.8 million total subscribers.

In filing the complaint, Tennis Channel chairman/CEO Ken Solomon said that “Comcast has left us with no choice.”

Solomon said the channel had held several talks with Comcast about moving Tennis to a more accessible tier, but to no avail.

Tennis accused Comcast of giving favorable treatment to its own networks, noting that Comcast’s similar-themed Golf Channel and Versus network aren’t on the same premium sports tier, but are available in most of the cable provider’s homes.

The channel noted that MLB, NHL and NBA channels also were moved to better tiers, but that Comcast has financial interests in those channels as well.

“This ten-to-one disparity in carriage seriously impedes our ability to grow and compete in the sports cable marketplace,” Solomon said. “It results solely from Comcast’s decision to protect the services it owns from legitimate competition.”

Comcast, however, noted that Tennis Channel is indeed available in every home, and that the cable provider is adhering to its agreement with the channel.

“Our contract with Tennis Channel, which the network freely negotiated and signed in 2005, specifically permits us to carry Tennis Channel on many different tiers, including as part of our Sports Entertainment Package,” the company said in a statement. “We are fully honoring the terms of our agreement with Tennis Channel and plan to continue carrying the network for our customers and tennis fans.”

Complaint comes as the FCC and the Department of Justice prepare to review Comcast’s proposed $30 billion acquisition of NBC Universal.

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