Comcast Hit With Program Carriage Complaint

BeIN Sports says it should 'be in' lower, more widely viewed, tier

Sports network beIN Sports has filed a program carriage complaint against Comcast, saying the cable operator has violated both the program carriage rules and a nondiscrimination condition in its NBCU purchase, which it said occurred before the Jan. 20 expiration of that condition.

It is complaining that Comcast puts its networks in a sports tier with lower penetration than its owned sports programming, and that there is no other reasonable explanation of that placement other than Comcast wanting to favor its own programming in violation of FCC rules and its merger condition. It wants the court to enjoin Comcast from "further carriage discrimination," which means carriage on "equitable terms" that doesn't "unreasonably restrict beIN's ability to compete fairly."

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In a complaint filed with the Federal Communications Commission, beIN says Comcast/NBCU discriminated against it in favor of NBC Sports Group's "similarly situated" sports programming, NBC Sports Network and NBC Universo. It says that other distributors — Charter Communications, CenturyLink, Frontier, fuboTV, Liberty Puerto Rico, Prism and Verizon Communications — give the networks greater penetration, so it is not a case of Comcast treating beIN as other distributors do.

BeIN said that Comcast has it wrong when it says the "similarly situated" language applies to networks rather than programming.

"The Commission has already found that a sports network focused on football (the NFL Network) is similarly situated to Comcast-affiliated networks focused on golf, fishing and hunting programming," it told the commission. "Here, the similarity among the programming of the four networks in question is much more pronounced."

BeIN said its networks, beIN Sports and beIN Sports en Español, and NBCSN and NBC Universo each provide hundreds of live soccer games yearly and have the same target audience and targeted advertisers, and even have roughly the same audience even allowing for beIN's lower penetration.

“Our practices and decisions with respect to beIN’s programming are justified by clear data and marketplace facts," Comcast said in a statement. "We will once again demonstrate this in our response to the FCC and are confident beIN’s recycled complaint will fare no better a second time around since we are fully compliant with the FCC’s rules. This is just another attempt by beIN to use the regulatory process improperly to try to extract non-market carriage terms from Comcast."

The refiling comes after the Justice Department signaled it would bee keeping an eye on Comcast/NBCU after the sunset of the deal conditions.