Tennis Channel slams Comcast in FCC filing
The Tennis Channel is claiming fault against Comcast Corp.
At issue is the cable operator's decision to offer the Tennis Channel on a specialty tier of sports networks as opposed to its widely distributed basic tier. The specialty tier has just over 2 million subscribers while Comcast's basic service has more than 24 million subscribers.
In a complaint to the Federal Communications Commission, Tennis Channel, which is a stand-alone cable network headed by TV industry veteran Ken Solomon, said Comcast has no problem putting its own nationally distributed sports outlets Versus and Golf Channel on the more widely distributed service but won't do the same for networks it doesn't own.
"The limited carriage Comcast provides to the Tennis Channel causes specific and concrete harm to its ability to compete for viewers, advertisers and the rights to cablecast tennis events," the complaint said, adding that because Comcast is a market leader, its decisions influence other distributors.
Tennis Channel's complaint comes as Comcast prepares to try to get its deal to take control of General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal through Washington lawmakers and regulators. The merger of the cable powerhouse with NBC will draw intense scrutiny from Congress, the FCC and other agencies.
Comcast, attacking the network, fired back that the complaint is groundless and that its deal with the network "specifically permits us to carry Tennis Channel on many different tiers, including as part of our Sports Entertainment Package."
This is not the first time Tennis Channel has gone after a cable operator. The network has been battling Cablevision over this same issue. Unlike Comcast, Cablevision does not own any national sports channels.
Although Tennis Channel is not part of a larger media company, its investors include private equity firms Apollo Partners, Bain Capital and Columbia Capital. The company's website also lists former Viacom Chief Executive Frank Biondi and former Viacom Deputy Chairman Tom Dooley as investors. Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras are have stakes in the company.
Solomon has long ties to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. The two worked closely together for media mogul Barry Diller when Diller was running USA Network and other media companies.
-- Joe Flint