Updated, 4:08 p.m.: More details are now coming out. The FCC has finally made the 87-page ruling public and issued a press release. Plus I’ve heard from Cablevision. See updates below.
Noted: The Federal Communications Commission voted today that cable companies who control sports programming must share the game broadcasts with rival satellite TV and Internet TV companies.
UPDATED: Sharing isn’t quite the right word. Today’s ruling created a process where TV providers can petition the FCC if they feel “a cable operator engages in unfair acts with respect to terrestrially delivered, cableaffiliated programming,” says the FCC.
Ultimately, it could mean more “sharing” of regional sporting events as satellite TV and Internet TV providers get a chance to complain about exclusive contracts some cable companies have with local sports teams. Read the full ruling: FCC Issues Order Promoting Competition in the Video Distribution Market.
The impact hasn’t been felt as much here in Orange County but down in San Diego, many paid-TV customers couldn’t watch San Diego Padres games because they weren’t Cox Communications subscribers. Cox has the exclusive rights to show the baseball games and wouldn’t let anyone else broadcast the games, which irked the satellite TV providers and AT&T, which offers U-verse TV service.
(Neither Cox nor Time Warner have exclusivity on Angels baseball games in Orange County, according to both companies.)
In New York, Verizon and AT&T were also shut out of offering regional sports events to their viewers. In August, AT&T filed a complaint with the FCC alleging anti-competitive practices against Cablevision Systems Corp, which owns Madison Square Garden, the New York Knicks and the New York Rangers, according to a Reuters report.
Today’s 4-1 FCC ruling prevents cable providers from refusing to let competing providers access the programming. Withholding regional sports programs violates section 628 of the Cable Act and is anti-competitive.
UPDATED: Actually, says Cablevision, it’s not a matter of sharing, but the FCC has established a complaint process. Kim Kerns, with Cablevision, says this:
“While we find the legal basis for the decision unfounded, we are pleased that the FCC recognized the value of Cablevision’s local programming strategy and investments. Verizon and AT&T will not receive an FCC bailout that will allow them to capture News 12, MSG Varsity and other programming that we have developed for our customers. We are also pleased that despite the phone companies’ overwhelming lobbying effort, the FCC has ensured a process that will enable us to demonstrate that no harm has been done to the nation’s two largest phone companies. Our market is the most competitive in the nation and we are confident that we can prove that the phone companies’ poor performance in our marketplace has nothing to do with a lack of HD programming. Verizon and AT&T do not need a regulatory bailout in order to compete.”
Verizon, which competes with Cablevision, said in a press release: ”This is a big-time victory for television sports fans. The FCC’s decision to make must-see regional sports programming, including high-definition feeds, presumptively available to competitors, puts viewers in the driver’s seat,” said Kathleen Grillo, Verizon senior vice president of Federal Regulatory Affairs.
Recent sports TV news: