Comcast, NESN Dispute RCN Claims10/05/2003 3:31 AM Eastern
Comcast Corp. is challenging RCN Corp.’s assertion that an alleged exclusivity agreement with New England Sports Network bars RCN cable customers from seeing Boston Red Sox Major League Baseball games in HDTV.
Comcast and NESN have a distribution agreement that is less than one month old, but it is not exclusive, Comcast spokesman Tim Fitzpatrick said after Multichannel News
reported RCN's allegations Wednesday.
NESN public-relations manager Gary Roy said the HDTV deal with Comcast was nonexclusive.
The word "exclusively" was used in a Sept. 15 press release announcing the deal to denote that Comcast was the first pay TV distributor to sign the agreement, Fitzpatrick said, adding, "It was exclusive in the sense that nobody else had done that at that point in time."
In a Federal Communications Commission filing Sept. 26, RCN said its customers were limited to analog access to NESN because of the HDTV agreement with Comcast. The filing also implied that the Comcast-NESN deal was particularly injurious because RCN subscribers would miss Red Sox playoff games in HDTV as the team vied for its first World Series victory since 1918.
RCN subscribers could not be cut off from Red Sox playoff games in HDTV by NESN's agreement with Comcast because NESN did not have the television rights to those games, Roy said.
RCN's Boston vice president and general manager Robert Sheehan was asked if he wanted to clarify the company's FCC filing, but he declined.