Bloomberg, Comcast Argue About Channel Placement

Bloomberg threatens to file a complaint with the FCC, arguing the cable giant is ignoring a condition placed on it in the NBCUniversal deal, while Comcast says Bloomberg misinterprets the condition.


NEW YORK - Bloomberg said Friday that cable giant Comcast has ignored a condition on channel placement that was included in the FCC order that approved its acquisition of NBCUniversal.

"Bloomberg LP has served notice to Comcast that – if Comcast continues to ignore the order – Bloomberg LP intends to file a complaint with the FCC seeking enforcement of the condition," said the company, which operates the Bloomberg Television financial news channel. The channel particularly is a competitor of NBCUniversal's CNBC, which Bloomberg was concerned would be at an advantage in Comcast cable homes following the merger.

The goal of the FCC order in question was to ensure that Comcast wouldn't treat its own networks better and put competing independent programmers at a disadvantage. The FCC had ruled that if Comcast “neighborhoods” its news, including business news, networks on a cable system's channel lineup, "it must include all unaffiliated news (or business news) channels in that neighborhood.”

Since the FCC’s order on Jan. 18, "Comcast has taken no steps to comply with the independent news provision of the order, Bloomberg said Friday. It accused Comcast of "anti-competitive practices."

Comcast responded that the FCC didn't require it to move Bloomberg TV next to CNBC in its channel lineup and emphasized that it hasn't given NBCUniversal news channels better placement.

"Bloomberg simply misinterprets the 'neighborhooding' condition in the FCC's Comcast NBCUniversal transaction order," Comcast said in a statement. "Comcast does not 'neighborhood' news channels in the way Bloomberg seeks to be repositioned. Further, Comcast has not repositioned any channels to favor CNBC or any other affiliated news channel. Bloomberg is not entitled to any relief pursuant to its threatened complaint."

Asked about the placement of Bloomberg TV, a Comcast spokeswoman said the company doesn't havestandard channel lineups across the country. But she added that many news channels were established and put on the Comcast lineup well before Bloomberg TV launched.

The statement added: "If Comcast is forced to do what Bloomberg wants the FCC to mandate beyond the requirements of the FCC order, millions of customers will be subject to disruption and confusion required by massive channel realignments across the country, all to benefit an already thriving, $30 billion media company."

“The FCC wisely placed conditions on the merger in order to protect the public. Comcast affirmatively agreed to those conditions," said Peter Grauer, chairman of Bloomberg LP. "Comcast’s decision to ignore these conditions is unacceptable. If Comcast continues to thumb its nose at the FCC’s order, Bloomberg will take its case to the Commission and ask that it enforce the conditions it attached to approval of Comcast’s acquisition of NBC-Universal.”

Under FCC procedure, Bloomberg can file a formal complaint 10 days after providing notice to Comcast.


Twitter: @georgszalai

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