The FCC has agreed to a hearing on the Tennis Channel’s complaint that Comcast relegated it to a premium sports tier rather than a more popular and widely distributed programming tier.
The commission said on Tuesday that the Tennis Channel presented “sufficient evidence” to warrant a hearing before an administrative law judge to decide whether Comcast discriminated against the Tennis Channel by refusing to run it on the same tier that it runs its own affiliated channels, like Golf Channel and Versus, that compete for similar audiences and advertisers.
Comcast customers who wish to receive the Tennis Channel have to subscribe to a premium tier and pay a monthly fee, in addition to the cost for the basic level of programming. A date for the hearing has yet to be set.
Sena Fitzmaurice, vice president of government communications for Comcast, said the complaint was “groundless” and that its contract with Tennis Channel, signed in 2005, “specifically permits us to carry” Tennis Channel as part of the Sports Entertainment Package.
“Far from discriminating against Tennis Channel, 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,” she said.
A spokesman for the Tennis Channel, Eric Abner, said in a statement that his company was “gratified” by the FCC’s action and “confident that when the matter is finally resolved, Comcast will have been found definitely to have illegally discriminated against Tennis Channel and in favor of its owned sports services.”