DirecTV, Dish Formally Ask For Access To Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia

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DirecTV and Dish Network have requested access to Comcast's terrestrially delivered regional sports network in Philadelphia.
"We have formally requested the programming," said DirecTV spokesman Robert Mercer.

He had no comment on whether DirecTV would file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission if the cable company did not make Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia available.
"[We] received their request and will review in due course and respond accordingly," said Comcast spokesman Tim Fitzpatrick. He would not elaborate.

A Dish spokesperson was not available for comment at press time.

Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia televises Philadelphia Phillies' Major League Baseball games, as well as Flyers' National Hockey League contests and Sixers' National Basketball Association affairs. Comcast, through its Spectacor unit, owns the NHL and NBA franchises.

The request follows the FCC's notice that the complaint-process portion of its January decision to close the so-called terrestrial exemption had been approved and that that process was open for business.

The FCC in January changed its rules to say that distributors who did not make their co-owned terrestrially delivered nets available to competitors on reasonable terms and conditions would be presumptively in violation of its program access rules. Before that the FCC had exempted terrestrial nets, in most cases it was regional sports netsworks at issue, because of language in the statute that specified the access rules applied to satellite-delivered networks.

Ryan Howard

In advance of the OMB sign-off announcement, Cox agreed to start negotiating with AT&T and others in San Diego for its presentation of Padres games and AT&T made its own formal request for MSG Networks HD programming in Connecticut. But AT&T was not reluctant to add a sting to the tail. It gave Cablevision and MSG 10 days to begin negotiating before it would ask the FCC to make them.

"MSG complies with federal regulations," said an MSG spokesman. "We are pleased to have AT&T as a customer
and to provide U-verse subscribers in Connecticut with access to every single game on MSG and MSG Plus."

He would not elaborate, but that was a reference to the standard-definition versions of the service The unspoken message: MSG apparently does not plan to make the HD versions available.

Also part of the FCC's decision was that operators could not satisfy the access requirement by making standard-definition feeds available, but not HD feeds, as is the case with MSG in Connecticut.

Cablevision has challenged the FCC's program-access rules in court, Comcast has not and told legislators at a Hill hearing on the Comcast/NBCU deal that it has no plans to do so.
In written answers to Sen. Al Franken on the issue of access to affiliated nets, Comcast chairman Brian Roberts said that it was ready to make Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia available to DirecTV as soon as the satellite operator made its exclusive Sunday Ticket package avaiable to Comcast and others.
Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia is already available to competing cable operators. RCN has carried the net since its launch in 1997 and Verizon's FiOS since that service launched in Philadelphia, according to Fitzpatrick.

But Comcst has not made it available to satellite operators, which, the company points out, have exclusive
programming like the National Football League out-of-market pacakge Sunday Ticket that helps differentiate the DBS service.

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