AT&T filed a complaint Monday against Cablevision Systems accusing the cable operator and its Rainbow Media Holdings affiliate of illegally withholding three regional sports networks that carry professional basketball and ice-hockey contests.
AT&T filed with the Federal Communications Commission, which has program-access rules that generally bar cable operators from withholding satellite-delivered programming from pay TV rivals.
In the complaint, AT&T accused Cablevision of program-access recidivism by refusing once again to license “must have” sports-programming networks in an effort to raise entry barriers to new pay TV competitors.
“Cablevision and Rainbow are infamous repeat offenders of the program-access rules, which deserve quickly to receive every available sanction,” AT&T’s complaint said.
Rainbow spokesman Whit Clay said his company had concerns about AT&T's ability to honor contract terms and conditions.
“We have reached programming agreements with a broad range of distributors including DirecTV, EchoStar [Communications], Verizon [Communications], RCN and even AT&T itself, but have outstanding questions regarding AT&T's violation of prior distribution agreements and about certain aspects of AT&T's technology and the protection of our programming,” Clay said.
AT&T told the FCC it had been unable to obtain access to FSN New York, Madison Square Garden Network and FSN New England, hindering its ability to roll out its U-verse TV Internet-protocol-TV service in portions of Hartford, New Haven and Stamford, Conn.
The Rainbow networks, according to AT&T, have the rights to televise New York Knicks and Boston Celtics National Basketball Association games and New York Islanders, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils National Hockey League games.
AT&T said Cablevision wouldn’t license the sports programming because AT&T did not have a cable franchise in Connecticut. AT&T said that under Connecticut law, it didn’t need a franchise to offer U-verse TV.