Comcast, Tennis Channel Dispute to Be Heard by FCC Judge

5:04 AM PST 11/24/2010 by Georg Szalai

Cable giant, awaiting regulatory approval of NBC Universal acquisition, says it is looking forward to refuting the independent network's "flawed" complaint.

NEW YORK - Cable giant Comcast Corp. and the independent Tennis Channel didn't manage to resolve a program dispute with the help of a mediator and are preparing for an administrative trial at the FCC to resolve the matter, according to the LA Times.

The dispute has been going on all year, with the independent Tennis Channel, currently available to Comcast customers as part of a higher-priced sports tier, arguing it should get broader distribution just like Comcast's Golf Channel and Versus, which are on the cable giant's basic tier and therefore available to all customers. Comcast has consistently said that Tennis Channel agreed to being carried on the sports tier and that other distributors offer it on similar or even more exclusive tiers.

The latest escalation of the argument comes at a sensitive time for Comcast though as it is waiting for FCC and Justice Department approval  of its plan to acquire a controlling stake in NBC Universal. Critics have long argued that the combination would give Comcast enough market power to favor its own channels over others, particularly smaller independently owned networks.

“Although it is disappointing that a resolution could not be reached, we now look forward to refuting Tennis Channel’s flawed complaint in a full evidentiary hearing before an administrative law judge at the FCC," a Comcast spokeswoman told the Times.

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