Everest Connections Corp. -- a small cable company trying to seize ground from Time Warner Cable and Comcast Corp. in the Kansas City market -- has lost a programming dispute over access to more than one-dozen men’s college-basketball games.
Almost one year ago, Everest filed a federal complaint claiming that Time Warner and Comcast were acting illegally and depressing its subscriber growth by locking up the sports programming.
But in a ruling released Christmas Eve, the Federal Communications Commission decided that Everest’s legal arguments were without foundation and denied the complaint.
Everest might appeal the Media Bureau decision to the five commissioners, but they seldom overrule a bureau action.
Messages left for Everest officials were not returned. Hugh Brown, outside counsel for Everest, declined comment.
Everest, with about 20,000 subscribers, competes in five Greater Kansas City communities against Kansas City Cable Partners, a 300,000-subscriber system controlled by Time Warner and Comcast.
Kansas City Cable owns Metro Sports, a 24-hour sports channel with local exclusive rights to the 15 basketball games to which Everest sought access.
Under FCC rules, cable-operator-owned programming delivered via satellite normally can’t be withheld from competing pay TV distributors, such as Everest.
But the FCC found that Metro Sports wasn’t covered by the exclusivity ban because programming in the Kansas City market was distributed to cable headends terrestrially, and not via satellite.
Although Metro Sports was vertically integrated with Kansas City Cable, the FCC said the basketball rights sold to Metro Sports were controlled by a third entity called Mizzou Sports Property.
The FCC indicated that Metro Sports was permitted to sign an exclusive deal with Mizzou Sports because Mizzou Sports had no affiliation with a cable operator.
Everest argued that because Metro Sports received some of its programming via satellite, the terrestrial exemption did not apply.