EchoStar Wants Sports Condition on Murdoch


News Corp. should not be allowed to pull regional sports networks from cable and satellite distributors while the parties are sitting at the arbitration table ironing out disputes, EchoStar Communications Corp. said in a Dec. 15 filing at the Federal Communications Commission.

The FCC is considering conditions on News Corp.'s plan to take control of DirecTV Inc., including one that would bar News Corp. from pulling local TV channels and sports networks from competing pay TV providers when contracts run out and renewal talks break down.

News Corp. has reportedly agreed not to yank its local TV stations, but it has not made the same concession regarding its sports channels, inspiring EchoStar's FCC missive that sports networks should not be exempt.

"The absence of regional sports or the local network station from a [pay TV provider's] package, even for a short period of time, has a debilitating effect on that distributor's ability to compete in the region in question," EchoStar said.

EchoStar claimed that its inability to gain access to Comcast SportsNet in Philadelphia has depressed penetration by 190,000 subscribers when compared with penetration levels in other markets where it has access to regional sports networks.