Google Fiber reiterates sports snag to FCC

Time Warner Cable RSN may be source of 'difficulty'

Google is running into a few roadblocks in its effort to experiment with the launch of a cable-like TV service in Kansas City.

The Internet behemoth has sent a second filing to the FCC reiterating the “difficulty” it has encountered reaching a deal that would give viewers access to regional sports networks in its Google Fiber test bed.

Google corporate counsel Megan Anne Stull doesn’t specify which regional sports net she’s referring to in her letter, filed last month, and neither does the initial filing from Sept. 21, but the channel in question is likely Metro Sports, owned by Time Warner Cable.

Google has licensed hundreds of channels to date for Google Fiber, a combination of Internet and TV service available through a 100-mile fiber-optic network installed across Missouri and Kansas. But the Internet giant has not been able to get carriage for Metro, which has rights to college and high school basketball games, in markets where TW Cable is the dominant pay-TV provider.

The letter alludes to a phone conversation between Stull and an FCC official. “They discussed the importance of being able to provide customers with access to must-have live regional sports programming and the difficulty of obtaining this programming,” Stull wrote.

TW Cable issued a statement last week suggesting that the company has offered the channel at a “fair and reasonable” price. Regional sports networks are typically among the most expensive networks to license.

TW Cable isn’t the only RSN owner in Kansas City: News Corp. is also active in those markets with Fox Sports Kansas City, which Google Fiber hasn’t landed yet either. However, it is possible Google is referring only to TW Cable in the filing, which pertains specifically to the FCC’s program access rules. Those regs require any channel owned by a parent company with holdings in the pay-TV business to be made available for licensing by rival distributors. Unlike TW Cable, News Corp. isn’t in the distribution business.

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