The American Cable Association, DirecTV and Dish have have joined those using Fox's decision to briefly block Cablevision subscribers from Fox online content as leverage in their argument for online access conditions on the Comcast/NBCU merger.
In a letter to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, the companies said that "if Fox, an entity with no affiliation to a distribution platform, was willing to deny certain viewers access to its online content in order to gain a negotiating advantage, a vertically integrated Comcast/NBCU would have an even greater incentive and ability to take similar action."
Comcast has declined comment on tying the two cases together, but has pointed out in the past that it has never even lost access to the primary signal of any TV station during retrans discussions.
ACA et al said that Fox's online move, which a source familiar Fox's thinking said was an effort not to weaken its negotiating position by giving subs access to Fox programming, was a "timely illustration both of the extent to which online content has become an integral part of the television viewing landscape and of the opportunities for disadvantaging MVPDs this development would present to Comcast/NBCU."
Public Knowledge, Free Press and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) are among those who have also linked Fox's move the issue of access to online content, including access to Comcast and NBCU content.
ACQA, DISH and DirecTV (and Public Knowlege) are all members of the American Television Alliance, a collection of companies that have petitioned the FCC to reform what they say is a broken retrans system that favors broadcasters and harms consumers.
Broadcasters argue just as strongly that it is a marketplace negotiation, that most deals are done without interruptions, and that they are simlpy trying to get fair market value for programming that is among the most popular on cable.