Dish Net to file complaint against Comcast

Dispute over Philadelphia sports channel

NEW YORK -- Satellite TV provider Dish Network plans to file a complaint against cable giant Comcast with federal regulators, arguing it has refused to enter good faith discussions about carriage of Comcast's regional sports network in Philadelphia.

The channel broadcasts Philadelphia Phillies, Flyers and 76ers games.

"Comcast's refusal clearly demonstrates a disturbing pattern of discriminatory behavior -- as we have indicated in our previous arbitration filings -- whereby the provider continues to restrict access to must-have sports programming and inappropriately uses its leverage to drive onerous terms for its other programming properties," a Dish spokeswoman said.

Dish argues that Comcast is in violation of the FCC's order earlier this year to close the so-called "terrestrial loophole" within the program access rules, which has allowed operators to keep networks exclusive as long as they are terrestrially carried.

Dish also used the issue to tie it into the current regulatory review of Comcast's plan to acquire NBC Universal. "It is this type of anti-competitive conduct that reinforces our argument that the merger between Comcast and NBCU poses a grave threat to competition in the multichannel video market," Dish said.

"We remain willing to discuss carriage of Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia with Dish Network," Comcast said in a statement. It highlighted that Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia has always been available to local competitors, such as Verizon and RCN, and that Comcast makes every one of its other regional sports channels available to all TV providers, including Dish.

The FCC's terrestrial loophole ruling "does not require Comcast to offer Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia or any other terrestrially delivered network to every distributor," it also said. "It only allows claims where the provider has suffered a competitive injury, and there is no evidence Dish has suffered such an injury."

Comcast has argued that satellite TV operators like exclusive programs, too, as seen in DirecTV's recent deal to continue TV drama "Damages" exclusively.

A source said Comcast also plans to argue that Dish hasn't seen any competitive harm without the Philly sports network, pointing to a report earlier this year that showed satellite TV penetration in the market to be comparable to others.
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