Comcast fires back at Bloomberg in channel placement fight
Comcast Corp. has fired back at Bloomberg, the business media conglomerate that last month asked the Federal Communications Commission to determine whether the cable giant has violating the conditions the federal government put on it in return for approving its takeover of NBCUniversal.
At issue is where Bloomberg's financial news channel Bloomberg TV is placed on Comcast cable systems. Bloomberg has argued that per the FCC's order signing off on the deal its channel needs to be near its rival CNBC, which Comcast acquired when it took control NBC Universal.
Bloomberg has accused Comcast of thumbing its nose at the FCC order.
Comcast said that is not the case and on Wednesday responded to Bloomberg's FCC complaint with its own filing at the regulatory agency.
“The complaint represents Bloomberg’s second attempt to extract preferential channel placement on Comcast’s cable systems through regulatory gamesmanship," Comcast said in its filing.
The two sides are debating in part over the definition of a neighborhood, which is when similar channels are placed next to each on a cable system. Bloomberg's complaint, Comcast claimed, is "based on an arbitrary and baseless definition of a news neighborhood as ‘four news channels within five positions.’ But that definition was neither supplied nor endorsed by the Commission. Instead, it is entirely Bloomberg’s invention."
In the FCC's January order approving the sale, the agency said: "Specifically, we require that if Comcast now or in the future carries news and/or business news channels in a neighborhood, defined as placing a significant number or percentage of news and/or business news channels substantially adjacent to one another in a system’s channel lineup, Comcast must carry all independent news and business news channels in that neighborhood."
However, a footnote in the same order added: "Our condition, however, would only take effect if Comcast-NBCU undertook to neighborhood its news or business news channels, which therefore would indicate that there was some value to neighborhooding despite additional search capabilities."
"The Commission adopted a 'narrowly tailored' condition" that does not apply to this case, Comcast asserted.
Comcast went on to note that moving Bloomberg closer to CNBC would lead to viewer confusion -- because other channels would have to be moved as well -- and create havoc on its current channel lineup and be very costly. “This could very well be an ongoing source of incessant and increasing disruption," Comcast noted.
-- Joe Flint
This post was updated to clarify what Comcast meant by viewer confusion.