FCC to MSG: Strike HD Deal by Oct. 22

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MSG Holdings will not have to start
making the high-definition feeds of its regional sports
networks available to Verizon Communications’ FiOS
TV and AT&T U-verse until at least Nov. 14 — but it has
to strike a carriage deal by Oct. 22, the Federal Communications
Commission said.

On Sept. 22, the FCC’s Media Bureau ruled that Madison
Square Garden’s MSG Media unit violated programaccess
rules by withholding HD versions of MSG and
MSG Plus from FiOS and U-verse. The bureau called it
an “unfair act” that “had the effect” of “significantly hindering
AT&T [and Verizon] from providing a competing
video service.”

MSG has 30 days, or until Oct. 22, to strike a carriage
deal on reasonable terms and conditions for HD carriage.

Cablevision and MSG — a spun-off former Cablevision
unit still controlled by the MSO’s Dolan family
— asked the FCC to stay the Sept. 22 order pending a review,
arguing it would cause “irreparable harm” to have
to deliver the RSN programming per the order.

The Media Bureau decided not to stay the entire order,
saying the parties still had to strike a deal by the October
deadline. But it stayed the order to the extent that carriage
did not actually have to start until at least Nov. 14,
to allow time to consider the petition for review.

We are pleased the FCC staff has issued a stay of its decision
so the full FCC can review the serious concerns
we have raised,” Cablevision said. “As we have said, the
record evidence clearly demonstrates there has been
no competitive harm to the nation’s two largest phone
companies as a result of not having two HD channels
they already receive in SD. We continue to believe that
in a highly competitive marketplace, Verizon and AT&T
should be required to compete based on the quality of
their products and not by manipulating federal law.”