Time Warner Cable said it’s offering “must-have” regional sports content on its Metro Sports network in the Kansas City area to Google at fair and reasonable prices -- but the MSO indicated it won’t provide other local programming such as high school sports for the Internet giant’s fiber-based IPTV service.
In a Sept. 21 filing with the Federal Communications Commission, Google said it was having difficulty obtaining “must-have” live regional sports content.
The TWC-owned Metro Sports channel broadcasts college basketball and high school games in the Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., markets. Google is planning to connect homes in 180 neighborhoods in the area to offer 1 Gbps Internet speeds and a next-generation TV service. Metro Sports is available on TWC, Comcast and Knology of Kansas (formerly Sunflower Broadband).
Asked to respond, Time Warner Cable said in a statement: “TWC has absolutely offered, and continues to offer, what the FCC describes as Metro Sports’ ‘must-have’ live regional sports programming -- men's and women's Division I basketball -- at fair and reasonable prices. As for the remaining programming on Metro Sports, we have long invested in local programming, and [Google is] welcome to do the same.”
Google said that when it spoke with FCC officials last week, company representatives “noted that they continue to add channels to their Google Fiber TV offering. They discussed the importance of being able to provide customers with access to must-have live regional sports programming and the difficulty of obtaining this programming.”
Google did not name specific RSNs in its filing. In addition to Metro Sports, sports networks in the area include Fox Sports Kansas City.
Google has yet to strike a carriage deal with Fox Sports Kansas City. According to a Google source, the company is still in negotiations with Fox.
A Fox spokesman declined to comment about any ongoing negotiations, but said: “We’re interested in distributing our content as broadly as possible," pointing out that Fox Sports Kansas City is carried by all major providers in the KC DMA as well as in other areas of the state and Nebraska.
The FCC has been considering letting the program-exclusivity ban, which dates back to the 1992 Cable Act, lapse on Oct. 5. Earlier this month FCC chairman Julius Genachowski circulated an order that would allow the prohibition to sunset, to consider program-access complaints on a case-by-case basis, Multichannel News reported.
TWC executives have downplayed the threat posed by the Google Fiber project, describing it as an “experiment,” even as the cable company is increasing its workforce in Kansas City by 9%.
The MSO has fewer than 100,000 Internet and 100,000 video subscribers that overlap with Google’s footprint, according to chief financial officer Irene Esteves. "We're talking about less than 1% of our subs [nationwide that are] at risk," she said, speaking at a Bank of America Merrill Lynch conference Sept. 12.
Google has inked programming carriage deals with major media companies, including Turner Broadcasting System, Disney/ESPN Media Networks, NBCUniversal, Viacom, Discovery Communications, Showtime Networks and Starz Entertainment.
Starting this fall, Google will begin hooking up 180 of the 202 neighborhoods targeted in its initial fiber-to-the-home buildout. However, Google won’t begin construction in 53% of those until next fall at the earliest, with another 28% slated for summer 2013.
Google declined to disclose how many people preregistered for the fiber service, or what it’s spending on the FTTH buildout. Its franchise agreements in the Kansas City area cover about 1 million people.
The Google Fiber service is $70 per month for broadband only with a one-year contract and $120 per month as part of a broadband/TV bundle with a two-year contract.
-- John Eggerton contributed to this article.