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FCC Says Cablevision Can't Withhold HD Sports Nets
AT&T, Verizon, Others Finally Win the Fight
by Karl Bode 09:13AM Friday Sep 23 2011
Last January the FCC issued an order (pdf) designed to put an end to cable operators preventing competitors from accessing local sports channels owned by the cable company. In June of last year those rules went into effect, and Dish, Verizon, DirecTV and AT&T began the complaint process as they attempted to get access to Cablevision's MSG HD in New York, and Comcast's SportsNet Philadelphia. More than a year later and the FCC's Media Bureau has ruled that Cablevision and MSG violated the agency's new rules by withholding HD versions of MSG and MSG-Plus from Verizon and AT&T.

Cablevision offered this statement:
quote:
"Today's disappointing rulings do not appear to be based on the facts," said Cablevison in a statement. "The data clearly demonstrates that there has been no competitive harm to the nation's two largest phone companies as a result of not having two HD channels they already receive in SD. New York is the most competitive market in the country and this decision only hurts fair competition and consumers. Instead of competing on the merits in the marketplace, Verizon and AT&T are manipulating federal law to gain an unfair advantage and we have every intention of pursuing relief in the courts."
While AT&T and Verizon certainly are no strangers to "manipulating federal law to gain an unfair advantage," this particular situation was fairly cut and dry. It's more than a little disingenuous for Cablevision to claim that withholding exclusive content they own to prevent customers from fleeing to competitors isn't anti-competitive. It's nice to see the FCC finally act on the issue, even if it took them several years to actually do so.

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pnh102
Reptiles Are Cuddly And Pretty
Premium
join:2002-05-02
Mount Airy, MD

1 recommendation

Wrong Answer

Is the FCC going to compensate Cablevision for the expropriation of its private property for public benefit? I didn't think it would either.

Perhaps if content providers were not allowed to own content delivery networks, this would not be an issue, but the FCC is in an oh-so-happy-approve-every-merger mood so we won't be seeing this happen any time soon.
--
"Net Neutrality" zealots - the people you can thank for your capped Internet service.
mogamer

join:2011-04-20
Royal Oak, MI

1 recommendation

Re: Wrong Answer

said by pnh102:

Is the FCC going to compensate Cablevision for the expropriation of its private property for public benefit? I didn't think it would either.

Perhaps if content providers were not allowed to own content delivery networks, this would not be an issue, but the FCC is in an oh-so-happy-approve-every-merger mood so we won't be seeing this happen any time soon.

Exactly. The FCC is so worried about competition, yet allowed Comcast to become one of the biggest content providers in the world. If the FCC really wanted true competition, they should have either not allowed the merger or make Comcast sell off it's internet/phone services, while preventing them from withholding content from the new service. Thus allowing for more competition in delivery of content.

Transmaster
Don't Blame Me I Voted For Bill and Opus

join:2001-06-20
Cheyenne, WY
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Re: Wrong Answer

This is funny when all of this started people where worried about what at the time was called vertical integration. People warned what would happen if Comcast and Times Warner, etc owned everything from the production companies to the means of getting out it to viewers. Their predictions have come true.
--
I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man's reasoning powers are not above the monkey's.
- Mark Twain in Eruption

fuziwuzi
Not born yesterday
Premium
join:2005-07-01
Atlanta, GA
said by pnh102:

Is the FCC going to compensate Cablevision for the expropriation of its private property for public benefit? I didn't think it would either.

The FCC isn't ruling that Cablevision must give away the content free of charge. They are still able to negotiate a fee that Verizon and AT&T must pay to carry those channels. The problem was that Cablevision refused to allow them to carry the channels at any price.
--
Teabaggers: Destroying America is Priority #1

fifty nine

join:2002-09-25
Sussex, NJ
kudos:2

Re: Wrong Answer

said by fuziwuzi:

said by pnh102:

Is the FCC going to compensate Cablevision for the expropriation of its private property for public benefit? I didn't think it would either.

The FCC isn't ruling that Cablevision must give away the content free of charge. They are still able to negotiate a fee that Verizon and AT&T must pay to carry those channels. The problem was that Cablevision refused to allow them to carry the channels at any price.

The FCC is ruling that Cablevision give up its competitive advantage for public benefit.

I also don't see any reason why the FCC should force cablevision to give up its advantage to competitors while Verizon isn't obligated to share its fiber network.
Skippy25

join:2000-09-13
Hazelwood, MO

Re: Wrong Answer

How, in even your corporate friendly view, can you possible say that since one has to give access to content the other has to give access to the network? They are 2 totally different things.

They have no justifiable reason to withhold the HD content, especially considering they provided it in SD. This is the exact reason why content owners should not be allowed to also be content delivers.

Gbcue
Premium
join:2001-09-30
Santa Rosa, CA
kudos:8
Because it's anti-competitive to consumers.

fuziwuzi
Not born yesterday
Premium
join:2005-07-01
Atlanta, GA
said by fifty nine:

The FCC is ruling that Cablevision give up its competitive advantage for public benefit.

I also don't see any reason why the FCC should force cablevision to give up its advantage to competitors while Verizon isn't obligated to share its fiber network.

So you would be OK with Comcast refusing to allow any other company to carry NBC Universal networks?

Just because the cable company also owns the content does not mean they can refuse to allow that content to be available for other companies. Cablevision is able to negotiate a fair price to other companies that want to carry that content, so what's the problem?

Greedy corporations are the ruin of America, and apologists like you make it easy for them.
--
Teabaggers: Destroying America is Priority #1

JasonOD

@comcast.net
Hold up...... Doesn't Cablevision still get to charge for this access plus reserve ad blocks on those channels?

Not saying it's right for them to be forced to open up, but they still get compensated for it, right?

mob
On the next level..
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Re: Wrong Answer

said by JasonOD :

Hold up...... Doesn't Cablevision still get to charge for this access plus reserve ad blocks on those channels?

Not saying it's right for them to be forced to open up, but they still get compensated for it, right?

Yes the businesses involved and some people here are complaining about having the option to make even more money for nothing.
--
Ich habe kein Mitleid - Me
You're a daisy if you do. - Doc Holliday
And as always, have nice day.

88615298
Premium
join:2004-07-28
West Tenness
said by pnh102:

Is the FCC going to compensate Cablevision for the expropriation of its private property for public benefit? I didn't think it would either.

Perhaps if content providers were not allowed to own content delivery networks, this would not be an issue, but the FCC is in an oh-so-happy-approve-every-merger mood so we won't be seeing this happen any time soon.

So the consumer should have to pay for multiple providers. Cablevision for the sports and DirecTv( or whoever ) for everything else. Yeah that's a real good thing to do to consumers who are cash strapped in a bad economy.
m8trix

join:2003-12-24
Phoenix, AZ
kudos:4

makes no sense

so wait cablevision cant restrict a channel they own but Directv can have exclusive rights to NFL ticket..makes no sense

45612019

join:2004-02-05
New York, NY

Re: makes no sense

Apples and oranges.

Greg2600

join:2008-05-20
Belleville, NJ
said by m8trix:

so wait cablevision cant restrict a channel they own but Directv can have exclusive rights to NFL ticket..makes no sense

DirecTV doesn't own NFL Sunday Ticket, that comes from the NFL, who are not a cable company.

fifty nine

join:2002-09-25
Sussex, NJ
kudos:2

1 recommendation

Re: makes no sense

said by Greg2600:

said by m8trix:

so wait cablevision cant restrict a channel they own but Directv can have exclusive rights to NFL ticket..makes no sense

DirecTV doesn't own NFL Sunday Ticket, that comes from the NFL, who are not a cable company.

And that may be the endgame here. Don't count out the Dolans yet.

zas

@cox.net
what about directv's exclusive channel "the 101"
robjlevin

join:2002-10-30
Millington, NJ

Re: makes no sense

Yes, it's exclusive, MSG is not. BTW, the name's been changed to The Audience Network.

nycdave
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said by m8trix:

so wait cablevision cant restrict a channel they own but Directv can have exclusive rights to NFL ticket..makes no sense

Sunday Ticket was open to anyone who wanted to bid on it. MSG-HD is restricted to those who don't compete directly with Cablevision, like Verizon and AT&T....
robjlevin

join:2002-10-30
Millington, NJ

Re: makes no sense

and DirecTV?

espaeth
Digital Plumber
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Re: makes no sense

said by robjlevin:

and DirecTV?

DirecTV and MSG is an odd story.

Rainbow Media / MSG Networks started a satellite company in 2003 under the name of Voom. The venture ultimately failed to be self-sustaining and shut down operations in 2005, but Dish Network bailed them out by purchasing their satellite asset (61.5WL orbital) and agreeing to purchase broadcast rights for the channels. This was back in the time when only a handful of networks were in HD, so adding over a dozen HD channels with original programming was a big deal.

Fast forward to 2007 where most channels were broadcasting in HD. People with HD TVs were far less inclined to watch original programming about scubadiving for treasure just because it was in HD when they could now watch their normal programming in HD after the majority of the channels had upgraded. Dish network started talks in late 2007 about ending the partnership with Rainbow Media and discontinuing the Voom channel subscription. In response, Rainbow Media / MSG tried to force Dish's hand and signed a deal to bring MSG(HD) and MSG+(HD) to DirecTV in December of 2007. The general idea was that the competitive advantage it would give DirecTV in the massive New York DMA would be enough to make Dish cave and continue to carry Voom so they could gain access to the HD broadcast rights for MSG/MSG+ as well. Instead, Dish proceeded to remove all of the Voom programming in May of 2008 and end the contract. This went even further and MSG/MSG+ networks were pulled completely from Dish last year.

The MSG / DirecTV relationship hasn't been without conflicts -- it wasn't really a deal MSG wanted to make in the first place. In the 2009-2010 season, MSG made DirecTV pull the HD feeds from the NHL Center Ice and NBA League pass offerings, citing that the contract they signed only allowed for broadcast of the channel within the NY DMA. Access to the HD feeds was later instated after the sports leagues (NBA / NHL), as full legal owners of the game content, engaged in private discussions that likely involved threats of ending the broadcast rights with MSG networks.

jmn1207
Premium
join:2000-07-19
Ashburn, VA
kudos:1
Not to mention that DirecTV has 20 million subscribers where Verizon and Cablevision have maybe 25% of that number.
Dodge
Premium
join:2002-11-27

I don't get how this is an issue

FCC Can't make cablevision give out content for free, why can't cablevision just say, ok, we want a trillion dollars a year for this and we keep all of the ad blocks? Don't like it don't buy it.

Am I missing something?

mob
On the next level..
Premium
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Reviews:
·SureWest Internet

Re: I don't get how this is an issue

said by Dodge:

FCC Can't make cablevision give out content for free, why can't cablevision just say, ok, we want a trillion dollars a year for this and we keep all of the ad blocks? Don't like it don't buy it.

Am I missing something?

Logic, don't let that trouble you though.
--
Ich habe kein Mitleid - Me
You're a daisy if you do. - Doc Holliday
And as always, have nice day.
robjlevin

join:2002-10-30
Millington, NJ
Yeah, you're missing the fact that part of the ruling is that they can't make any compensation demands that differ from the rest of the deals they've made.

File it under logic.
Skippy25

join:2000-09-13
Hazelwood, MO
Yes you are missing something.

If they attempt to charge them more than they charge others then they are still attempting to block access to those competitors and thus are still violating the same rules they were just slapped for.

cypherstream
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join:2004-12-02
Reading, PA
kudos:3

Can this apply to Comcast Sportsnet Philly?

I'd love to see Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia come to DirecTV.

Can they use the outcome of this case to make it happen for that network too?

I went to catch the Phillies game last night on MASN HD. Guess what... stupid error message saying the game is not available in this area. Ok so then I went to check out the Yankee's game on SNY. Same message.

Whats with DirecTV padding their HD channel count when you can't even watch half of the sports channels due to some archaic blackout restrictions?

mob
On the next level..
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Re: Can this apply to Comcast Sportsnet Philly?

said by cypherstream:

Whats with DirecTV padding their HD channel count when you can't even watch half of the sports channels due to some archaic blackout restrictions?

"Professional sports" and broadcast have a relationship in which consumers play role of just a wallet.

I view pro sports as socialism for the wealthy.
--
Ich habe kein Mitleid - Me
You're a daisy if you do. - Doc Holliday
And as always, have nice day.
robjlevin

join:2002-10-30
Millington, NJ
It's the same thing. Withholding programming based on terrestrial distribution. DTV will eventually win the right to CSN Philly.

The blackouts are not decided by DTV. If you want out of market sports you'll need to buy the appropriate package. For baseball that's Extra Innings.
JPL
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1 recommendation

said by cypherstream:

I'd love to see Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia come to DirecTV.

Can they use the outcome of this case to make it happen for that network too?

I went to catch the Phillies game last night on MASN HD. Guess what... stupid error message saying the game is not available in this area. Ok so then I went to check out the Yankee's game on SNY. Same message.

Whats with DirecTV padding their HD channel count when you can't even watch half of the sports channels due to some archaic blackout restrictions?

That's all part of this. I just posted this story on a directv forum for that reason. This story means that DirecTV customers will soon be given access to CSN Philly. Here's the deal. Cable companies are not allowed to withhold channels from their competition. CV tried to do that with their Rainbow channels with FiOS, but the FCC forced the issue.

This ruling concerns one particular part of the law called the terrestrial loophole. Basically it goes like this - if I have a cable company and I have a channel that I distribute, if I bounce said channel off a satellite, I can't prevent you, my competition, from carrying that channel. If, however, I only distribute the channel terrestrially, I can. 18 months ago the FCC ruled that that's no longer the case.

Verizon brought a case to the FCC arguing that RSNs in particular give one provider an unfair advantage. Mainly because they represent professional sports teams, and those teams, in addition to being representative of the area, are a fixed commodity. Verizon can't go out and start a new NHL franchise in NY just so they can compete with CV, in other words. What's more Verizon demonstrated that such arrangements hurt competition in those markets (e.g. here in Philly, they demonstrated that the market penetration for satellite dishes was well below the national average, and they attributed that difference to the lack of RSN coverage by DirecTV and Dish - Comcast prevents them from carrying CSN).

The FCC agreed with Verizon's petition. The ruling, however, didn't automatically close the loophole. The FCC said that each provider wanting such a channel would need to plead the case before the FCC. Verizon had to go to the FCC and demonstrate why not having MSG HD put them at a disadvantage. This statement by the FCC is basically the FCC's ruling in that one particular case. DirecTV and Dish already have similar claims to the FCC for CSN Philly. This decision by the FCC indicates that they're prepared to move forward with forcing carriage of RSNs. DirecTV will benefit from this as well.

As for the whole contract thing - why can't CV just charge Verizon a million dollars per customer for MSG HD? Because they can't. The rules on contract negotiation are very clear, and are long-standing. CV tried playing these games with channels like AMC when FiOS first came out, and the FCC came down hard on CV for doing that. The contract negotiation piece, in other words, is a long standing rule that's worked very well in such cases. All this ruling does is it forces CV to offer MSG HD and MSG+ HD to Verizon and AT&T. The contract has yet to be worked out, but the timeline is clear - they have 30 days to get there. And rules are already in place to prevent CV to engage in usery against Verizon and AT&T. The FCC has used those rules in the past, and they will apply them again.

The only wrinkle in this whole tale (about cable companies not withholding channels) really came down when DirecTV was owned by News Corp. The rules are specific to cable companies. There was a belief that there was some wiggle room if the company who owned the channel was a satellite provider instead (News Corp is the parent company of Fox, and the FCC was concerned that News Corp would prevent cable companies from carrying the fox suite of channels). I believe this latest ruling does much to clear that up.

As for Sunday Ticket - totally different issue entirely. If MSG were owned by an independent third party, they could decide NOT to give distribution of the channel to whomever they desired. It's the fact that MSG is owned by CV, a cable provider, that this is even an issue. ST is owned by the NFL - a totally independent third party.
Kearnstd
Space Elf
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Mullica Hill, NJ
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if its the league generating the blackout I wonder what would happen if a TV carrier just sent people in a blacked out city the other coast feed. I doubt that MLB has the legal right to sue a video carrier for bypassing local blackouts unless blackouts are protected by some law..
--
[65 Arcanist]Filan(High Elf) Zone: Broadband Reports
robjlevin

join:2002-10-30
Millington, NJ

Re: Can this apply to Comcast Sportsnet Philly?

They have a contractual obligation to blackout certain events. As I said, if you want out of market baseball you'll need to buy the Extra Innings package.
majortom1029

join:2006-10-19
Lindenhurst, NY
kudos:1

wait

Doesnt this change now that msg and cablevision are two seperate companies?

•••••••••
tpkatl

join:2009-11-16
Dacula, GA

1 recommendation

And companies wonder why customers are cutting the cord

Somewhere along the line Cablevision (and its siblings) forgot that if you want to be successful, you have to pay some attention to customers.

So the cable companies get into these pissing matches with each other over .0003 additional percent revenue, and the public sees that and says "where is the channel that *I* want" in all this.

And the customer gets disgusted and leaves.

A plague on both their houses.

Smith6612
Premium,MVM
join:2008-02-01
North Tonawanda, NY
kudos:24

About time!

Can finally watch the Buffalo Sabres in HD when I'm at a location with FiOS once the feed goes live. Right before Sabres season too.
flashcore

join:2007-01-23
united state

Re: About time!

Sure, so long as your talking about there 2020 season. This whole thing is LONG from being over, there will be court cases most likely all the way to the supreme court which will take years to have a final answer, then there will be years of price negotiations.
UofMiamiGrad
Premium
join:2001-02-03
Great Neck, NY

Decisions!

In pdf format!

AT&T: »transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Release···95A1.pdf

Verizon: »transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Release···94A1.pdf
guppy_fish
Premium
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Lakeland, FL
kudos:2
Reviews:
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Long from over

This isn't even out of the first inning of the game. There are many avenues that CV can take to not provided the content

MSG is not "owned" by CV in anyway. There is no law stating a private citizen can't own stock in more than one company.

Then there is the fact the FCC has no legal authority for enforcement and its rulings are technically meaningless, only congress can make laws that are enforceable.

This isn't over, FIOS won't have MSG-HD in 31 days or 31 years for that matter.
robjlevin

join:2002-10-30
Millington, NJ

Re: Long from over

I'll give you credit for one thing...you certainly do stick to your guns. I agree it won't be on FiOS in 31 days, but I do think the courts will stand by the FCC order.