FCC: Offer MSG In HD to Rivals

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New York — The Federal Communications Commission
has denied a request by Madison Square Garden
and Cablevision Systems to review a decision
requiring that the high-definition feeds of regional
sports networks MSG and MSG Plus be made available
to competitors.

Those firms include AT&T and Southern New England
Telephone Co. in Connecticut and Verizon Communications
in the New York and Buffalo, N.Y., markets.

The commission affirmed that original order and
refused a request to stay its effective date, though
it found that “in order to provide sufficient time for
compliance,” it would give the companies 15 days
from the Nov. 10 order release date to provide the programming.

That FCC decision came a day after the U.S. Court
of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit denied a Cablevision/
MSG request that it stay the agency’s rulings.

MSG televises games involving the National
Hockey League’s New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres
and the National Basketball Association’s New
York Knicks. MSG Plus holds the rights to games involving
the NHL’s New Jersey Devils and New York

The Media Bureau had initially said the feeds had
to be provided by Nov. 14, while a deal had to be
struck on reasonable terms and conditions by Oct.
22. They now have until Nov. 25 to make the feeds
The Media Bureau had ruled that Cablevision and
Madison Square Garden Network — separately traded
companies, but both controlled by Cablevision’s
founding Dolan family — violated FCC programaccess
rules by withholding HD versions of the

The FCC said that it was an “unfair act” that “had
the effect” of “significantly hindering the companies
from providing a competing video service.”
The commission reaffirmed its finding last Thursday
(Nov. 10), saying the bureau’s decision was reasoned
and proper, that it did not disregard evidence,
and that “the bureau’s conclusion that defendants’
conduct here was, on balance, ‘unfair’ was based on
a careful weighing of the evidence presented in this

Cablevision said in a statement that it was considering
all its options but said the FCC continues to
“disregard the facts.”

“The evidence on record clearly demonstrates that
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,” Cablevision
said in the statement.

“In markets like New York, with as many as five
video providers, the only thing this decision does
is discourage companies from investing and innovating,
which hurts both fair competition and
consumers,” the cable operator added. “Instead of
competing on the merits of the products, Verizon
and AT&T are manipulating federal law to gain an
unfair advantage.”