Appellate panel grants stay of FCC order in carriage fight

A D.C. appellate court has granted a stay to Comcast as it attempts to reverse an FCC order that it place Tennis Channel on a tier commensurate with that of two other sports channels owned by the cable giant, Golf Channel and NBC Sports Network.

The court ruling is a setback to Tennis Channel’s protracted effort to improve its carriage on Comcast. The indie channel has won a series of victories at the FCC, which ruled that Comcast had discriminated against the channel in placing it in less broadly distributed tiers. But the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals granted Comcast’s request for a stay as it pursues an appeal in court.

“Tennis Channel is disappointed by today’s U.S. Court of Appeals stay decision,” Tennis Channel said in a statement. “We believe that the FCC’s decision was correct and that the court will agree with the FCC when it considers the full case.”

Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice said in a statement, “We are pleased the Court of Appeals has recognized the serious issues raised by the FCC’s unprecedented Tennis Channel decision and granted our request to stay the FCC’s action, sparing millions of our customers needless disruption. We look forward to presenting our case in court.”

The FCC gave Comcast 45 days to move Tennis Channel. Last last week, Comcast informed customers on its blog that would move the channel to the Digital Starter and Digital Preferred levels of service on or about Sept. 7.

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