Cablevision Pitches Program Unbundling To Martin, FCC


Cablevision has apparently pitched the Federal Communications Commission on a plan that would bar programmers from demanding carriage that would reach a specified number of subscribers on a cable system.

Speculation in Washington, D.C., had chairman Kevin Martin seeking support for the plan, which could then possibly be acted on at the commission’s Dec. 18 meeting.

A filing by Mediacom Communications at the FCC cites a meeting on Friday, Nov. 21, that included Mediacom chairman and CEO Rocco Commisso; Cablevision Systems chairman Charles Dolan; FCC chairman Kevin Martin and commissioners Michael Copps, Kenneth Adelstein and Robert McDowell.

Discussed at that Nov. 21 meeting were “issues presented by the retransmission consent scheme, the benefits of a establishing a retransmission consent quiet period before and after the digital television transition hard date, the terrestrial exemption to the program access rules, and the arguments put forward by small cable operators in the above referenced dockets,” the filing said.

Another filing cites “language” that Cablevision submitted to the FCC on Saturday, Nov. 22. It states: "No cable programming vendor or broadcast station electing retransmission consent for carriage on a cable system shall enforce or execute any provision in a contract with an MVPD that directly or indirectly— (a)sets as a condition of carriage the number of viewing subscribers (whether such number is stated as a total number of viewing subscribers or a percentage of an MVPD's video subscribers), (b)prescribes the service tier, package or level where such programming or station must be carried (c)sets a single rate other than a rate per viewing subscriber (regardless of the tier, package, volume or level of carriage), or (d) otherwise restricts, is intended to restrict, or has the effect of restricting, the MVPD's packaging or pricing of such programming or stations. All such restrictions in existing contracts are null and void.”

The filings were reported by CableFAX Daily on Wednesday.

Cablevision on Wednesday said in a statement: “It has been the longstanding view of Charles Dolan and Cablevision that programmers should not be able to withhold their programming from cable, satellite and telco distributors unless it is carried in a designated tier. We believe that programming should be sold on a per-viewing-subscriber basis, and not be required to be distributed to all customers as a condition of carriage.”

Mediacom chairman and CEO Rocco Commisso, who has long sought more flexibility for cable operators from contractual requirements that a programming service, for example, be placed in an expanded-basic tier, attended the Nov. 21 meeting. A Mediacom official could not immediately be reached on Wednesday for comment.

Martin is likely to meet with reporters ahead of the Dec. 18 meeting.