Almost six days after it won an arbitration ruling, Comcast SportsNet California remains off of Dish Network.
The DBS provider dropped the regional sports network at midnight on Nov. 24 about a dozen hours after it lost a baseball-style arbitration for its proposal before a Federal Communications Commission arbitrator on Nov 23. Dish had initiated the arbitration under a condition imposed upon Comcast's (and Time Warner Cable's) 2006 acquisition of Adelphia Communications that enabled the No. 2 DBS provider to ask for an FCC-mandated arbitrator to settle any pricing impasse.
The parties have been out of contract since September 2009, but CSN California had remained on Dish's air until last Wednesday morning.
Dish has also initiated other arbitration proceedings against three other Comcast-owned RSNs: CSN Bay Area, CSN Chicago and CSN Mid-Atlantic, all of which are also out of contract with the distributor.
Since it was disconnected on Nov. 24, Comcast has launched a Web site, IWantCSN.com and a toll-free number, 888-5-CSNCA-0 (888-527-6220), so fans can let Dish know they want to watch contests from the National Hockey League's San Jose Sharks and National Basketball Association Sacramento Kings, as well as other sports fare on the RSN. CSN California includes that information on the top story on the right side of its Web site
Comcast, on the day before Thanksgiving, also emailed a letter to FCC Media Bureau chief William Lake, apprising him of Dish's actions, which it believes represents a breach of the arbitration order and contract. In the missive, Comcast also expressed concern that Dish might enact similar actions with the other RSNs in question.
"Given Dish's conduct, it is apparent that Dish does not intend to act in good faith in these negotiations," wrote Comcast vice president, regulatory and state legislative affairs Kathy Zachem. "If Dish is unhappy with any of the results in these related matters, the Commission should expect that it will likewise unilaterally terminate carriage of the networks. The letter also requested a meeting with Lake and Dish to discuss the matter.
An official for Comcast said the company spoke once with Dish since the contract was breached and the RSN was disconnected,
Dish issued the following statement last Wednesday afternoon: "Plain and simple, Comcast is making unreasonable demands for continued carriage of Comcast SportsNet California - demands that would cause undue harm to our customers in the form of higher rates. If we accept Comcast's onerous demands, customers nationwide will suffer and it will embolden Comcast to continue to make similar demands for its other programming properties. Because the demands by Comcast are ultimately detrimental to consumers, Dish Network is appealing to the Federal Communications Commission, as we respectfully believe that the arbitration decision was based upon significant legal and factual errors."
Dish has also established a Web site, http://www.fairdealforyou.com/ about its standoff with CSN California.
Terms of the arbitration decision were not disclosed. However, such contract situations can center on price, duration, channel and tier placement, and considerations of most-favored nation clauses.
This isn't Dish's only dispute in the RSN arena. Fox Sports Net RSNs were off the DBS provider's air for nearly a month, starting on Oct.1, They were restored as part of retransmission-consent deal reached with Fox on Oct. 29.
Elsewhere, its contract with MSG Network and MSG Plus expired on Oct. 1 and those channels have remained dark since then. Ironically, MSG said it would submit to arbitration as a means to reconnect with Dish.