Byron Allen and Comcast have settled the long-running racial discrimination lawsuit over Allen’s cable channels that went all the way to the Supreme Court last November.
Comcast has reached a deal with Allen’s Entertainment Studios to pick up three of his cable channels — Comedy.TV, Recipe.TV and JusticeCentral.TV. The pact also amend the terms of Comcast’s existing deal to carry Weather Channel, which Allen’s company acquired in 2018. It also covers the retransmission consent rights to 14 local TV stations that Allen Media Group has acquired during the past few months.
Allen filed a $20 billion lawsuit against the media giant in 2015, asserting that the media giant violated civil rights law by refusing to carry his portfolio of seven niche cable channels. Comcast vehemently denied that race played any role in its decision.
“We’re excited to begin a new phase of partnership with Comcast and Xfinity, including the distribution of our cable channels for the first time on Xfinity platforms,” said Byron Allen, founder, chairman and CEO of Entertainment Studios/Allen Media Group.
Allen declined to elaborate on the matter. It’s likely that the settlement included a confidentiality agreement.
“We are pleased to have reached this multifaceted agreement that continues our long relationship with The Weather Channel while bringing Xfinity customers additional content. We look forward to an ongoing partnership,” said Bec Heap, senior VP of video and entertainment for Comcast Cable.
The carriage pact also calls for Comcast to launch the free Weather Channel app Local Now on its Xfinity and Flex platforms and the WeLoveWeather.TV website on an authenticated basis. Comcast will also have VOD rights to the three new channels.
Allen’s suit maintained that Comcast had violated a federal civil rights law from 1866 designed to ensure that Black people had the same right to make and enforce contracts as white people. The suit asserted that because race was involved in Comcast’s decision making, the cable giant had violated the law known as Section 1981.
Last November, attorneys for Allen and Comcast squared off in the nation’s high court to argue over a narrow issue in the case involving the whether race was the sole factor in Comcast’s rejection of Allen or whether it was a “motivating factor.” Allen’s team argued for the “motivating factor” standard. The significance applied to the burden of proof in the case, which would have been lighter on Allen’s team had the justices agreed that the probing the “motivating factor” standard was right test for the case.
In March, the court ruled 9-0 in favor of Comcast’s argument on the interpretation question and sent the lawsuit back to a lower court to be refiled. It’s understood that settlement discussions between Comcast and Allen had picked up steam even before the Supreme Court decision was issued.
Allen also has a $10 billion lawsuit pending against cable giant Charter Communications. The litigation against a prominent Black media entrepreneur has become a PR nightmare for Comcast and Charter, particularly at a time of heightened sensitivity to racial justice concerns.
Allen previously settled litigation against DirecTV that also led to the Entertainment Studios’ channels being picked up by the satcaster.
(Pictured: Byron Allen)