Comcast, DirecTV Avert Arbitration With New RSN Agreement

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One down, eight to go.
Comcast said it has reached an agreement in its long-running contract dispute with DirecTV for the cable company's regional sports network in New England.
A spokesman for Comcast Sports said that it has just finalized this afternoon a multiyear deal with DirecTV for carriage of Comcast SportsNet New England. The pact, further terms of which were not disclosed, averts a baseball-style arbitration hearing that was set for Dec. 14 and 15 in Los Angeles.  Under that format, an intervenor would select one party's offer over the other's.

Comcast officials indicated that the parties exchanged testimony last week and DirecTV today moved to settle.

With the contracts for CSN New England and CSN Bay Area both concluding at the end of 2008, DirecTV in early January availed itself of the arbitration option borne out of the Federal Communications Commission's conditions on the top cable operator's 2006 acquisition of part of Adelphia Communications. No arbitration hearing date has yet been scheduled for CSN Bay  Area.
Meanwhile, Comcast and DirecTV face further arbitration proceedings relative to CSN California and CSN Chicago, whose contracts concluded with the DBS provider on Sept. 30.
CSN Northwest, meanwhile, is trying to secure its first distribution pact with DirecTV.
On the other side of the negotiating table, DirecTV Sports Networks is in renewal talks with Comcast for continued carriage of its RSNs. The distribution pacts of FSN Rocky Mountain (and sub regional FSN Utah), FSN Northwest and FSN Pittsburgh, all areas where Comcast is the predominant cable operator, conclude at year-end.
Nationally, DirecTV and Comcast remain at loggerheads over Versus. Comcast's national sports service has been disconnected from DirecTV since its contract expired on Sept. 1. The parties have continued to negotiate, but have not been able to surmount pricing and positioning differences.