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Philly RSN: FCC looks to close loophole keeping it off Dish


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#1 OFFLINE   sepaperson

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Posted 17 January 2010 - 05:22 PM

The Federal Communications Commission will seek to close a loophole that has kept Phillies, Sixers, and Flyers games off satellite TV in Philadelphia and given a huge competitive advantage to Comcast Corp.

An FCC official said the agency would circulate an order today that will close the "terrestrial loophole" that allows Comcast to withhold Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia from DirecTV and Dish Network.

The five-member regulatory board could vote on the order in January.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski says the loophole should be closed to level the competitive playing field among pay-TV companies, a commission official said. The move is one of Genachowski's first major acts involving cable and satellite companies at the agency.

The FCC, which had been discussing the issue internally, first disclosed its plans yesterday to lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Comcast, which has consistently fought in the courts and at the FCC to protect the loophole, had no comment yesterday. The company also faces a tough FCC regulatory battle in 2010 over its proposed acquisition of entertainment giant NBC Universal Inc.

For years, the terrestrial loophole has been a source of angst for Philadelphia area sports fans because it forces them to subscribe to Comcast to watch the local teams on television. Because of the loophole, experts say, satellite TV's market penetration in Philadelphia is one of the lowest in the United States.

The rule says Comcast can withhold its regional sports network from satellite companies because the programming content is distributed on land-based data lines.

Susan Eid, DirecTV's senior vice president for government affairs, said yesterday that her company was pleased with the FCC's action.

"Comcast has denied fans from watching their local teams to stifle competition from satellite," Eid said in a statement. "We applaud this effort by the FCC to address this anti-consumer, anti-competitive behavior."

David L. Cohen, Comcast's executive vice president, said recently that the loophole was created as an incentive for companies to invest in regional sports networks and that it should remain in place.

In a briefing with reporters earlier this month, Cohen criticized DirecTV for its exclusive Sunday Ticket deal with the National Football League for out-of-market football games, which has hurt Comcast and other cable companies.

In recent years, the terrestrial loophole's competitive advantage has diminished as Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia's programming has been available on Verizon Communications Inc.'s FiOS TV service.

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#2 OFFLINE   commodore_dude

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Posted 18 January 2010 - 01:44 PM

Hopefully this will help finally get CSS on satellite as well even though they don't currently have any major league pro sports besides the Peachtree TV Braves broadcasts. Wonder if this would also help with any of the other smaller RSNs like TWC Sports, etc?
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#3 OFFLINE   ddobson

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Posted 18 January 2010 - 01:59 PM

This isn't the only loophole in the law. Where I live Comcast offers both Chicago and South Bend stations to everyone in the county. Yet DirecTV customers can't get South Bend. I have put up an antenna so I can get the Colts games when they aren't on Chicago stations.

They're almost always on South Bend when no on Chicago

My dad can watch them 6 blocks away and I can't with DirecTV.... He won't swtich to satellite because he doesn't want to lose his South Bend stations.
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#4 OFFLINE   garn9173

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Posted 18 January 2010 - 02:15 PM

This isn't the only loophole in the law. Where I live Comcast offers both Chicago and South Bend stations to everyone in the county. Yet DirecTV customers can't get South Bend. I have put up an antenna so I can get the Colts games when they aren't on Chicago stations.

They're almost always on South Bend when no on Chicago

My dad can watch them 6 blocks away and I can't with DirecTV.... He won't swtich to satellite because he doesn't want to lose his South Bend stations.


That's not a loophole, it's actual law. DirecTV and Dish Network can legally only carry locals of the DMA that you reside in and in your case, looks like you live in the Chicago DMA.

How the cable industry gets away with providing the locals of other DMA's is beyond me. In some parts of Iowa, Mediacom Cable offers CBS from three different in markets in one small town. Only thing I can think of is there is some sort of grandfather clause that allows cable to provide multiple locals from more than the DMA that you are legally to receive.

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#5 OFFLINE   ajc68

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Posted 18 January 2010 - 02:20 PM

In a briefing with reporters earlier this month, Cohen criticized DirecTV for its exclusive Sunday Ticket deal with the National Football League for out-of-market football games, which has hurt Comcast and other cable companies.


This is not even a relevant argument. The Sunday Ticket is up for bid to everyone including Comcast. Directv overpays every time the rights come up for bid (and continually loose money on the deal). There's nothing stopping Comcast from outbidding Directv, they have the resources but choose not to. Conversely, Directv (and Dish) do not have access to CSN Philly because Comcast is not legally obligated to offer it. This is the loophole the FCC is looking to close as it obviously stifles competition and gives Comcast an unfair advantage in the region.

#6 OFFLINE   erosroadie

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Posted 18 January 2010 - 02:33 PM

This is not even a relevant argument. The Sunday Ticket is up for bid to everyone including Comcast. Directv overpays every time the rights come up for bid (and continually loose money on the deal). There's nothing stopping Comcast from outbidding Directv, they have the resources but choose not to. Conversely, Directv (and Dish) do not have access to CSN Philly because Comcast is not legally obligated to offer it. This is the loophole the FCC is looking to close as it obviously stifles competition and gives Comcast an unfair advantage in the region.


DirecTV may "overpay" as you say, but I surmise their Sunday Ticket subscriptions have helped them become #1 in satellite customers. How large a customer base would DirecTV have if Sunday Ticket were available to all cable and satellite providers equally?

#7 OFFLINE   TulsaOK

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Posted 18 January 2010 - 02:38 PM

Apparently, D* has a lot of "loose" money. :)
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#8 OFFLINE   ajc68

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Posted 18 January 2010 - 04:42 PM

DirecTV may "overpay" as you say, but I surmise their Sunday Ticket subscriptions have helped them become #1 in satellite customers. How large a customer base would DirecTV have if Sunday Ticket were available to all cable and satellite providers equally?


This goes without saying... Since D* is the so-called "Sports Leader" it makes sense for them to make the highest bid. But the point is that Comcast has equal access to bid for this package, conversely, D* and Dish have no access to CSN Philly legally, which is anti-competitive and that's what the FCC is addressing.

#9 OFFLINE   Kheldar

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Posted 18 January 2010 - 04:51 PM

That's not a loophole, it's actual law. DirecTV and Dish Network can legally only carry locals of the DMA that you reside in and in your case, looks like you live in the Chicago DMA.

How the cable industry gets away with providing the locals of other DMA's is beyond me. In some parts of Iowa, Mediacom Cable offers CBS from three different in markets in one small town. Only thing I can think of is there is some sort of grandfather clause that allows cable to provide multiple locals from more than the DMA that you are legally to receive.


It's a bit off the original topic, but since you asked:

Satellite and cable companies are controlled by totally different sets of laws.

Satellite
As you said, satellite companies can only legally provide stations from the local DMA, with a few exceptions (called "significantly viewed" stations or "neighboring local channels"). DirecTV maintains a list of available neighboring local channels here.

Also, there are two types of carriage agreements: Must-Carry and Negotiated.
Must-Carry: In any market where a satellite company offers any local channels, certain channels have the right to demand that their signals must be carried. If the station chooses this option, they cannot demand money or other payment during the period of their must-carry status. Must-carry status is renewed every 3 years. At the end of a must-carry cycle, the station has the option of attempting to become a negotiated station as listed next.
Negotiated: If a station wants money from a satellite carrier in their home DMA, they have the option to select a negotiated status. They run the risk of not being carried at all if they can't reach a negotiated price for carriage, but some are willing to risk this based on their percieved value to the customer base.

With Neighboring Local Channels, they do not have the same two options as listed above. They are strictly negotiated status, and the FCC decides which stations can be considered as significantly viewed in each market. The satellite companies are typically unwilling to carry a lot of these channels (at least channels associated with networks that already have a local affiliate) due to largely duplicated programming. In some cases, they have to black out duplicative programming if requesting by the local affiliate of the same network. So the carriers don't usually want to pay extra for a channel that is largely blacked out unless it carries some additional programming of local interest (news from a neighboring city, sporting events not available on local channels, etc).

Cable
Until recently (a couple years back), the rule for cable was, basically, "if you can pick it up with an antenna at your office, feel free to broadcast it to any of your customers" and didn't involve negotiating coverage with the stations themselves. So it only cost a cable company the cost of the antenna and the gear to get the signal on the cable.

Now, the rules have changed. Channels now have the same "must-carry" and "negotiated" options on cable as they do for satellite. This is why you are now regularly seeing announcements of cable companies dropping stations, including some rather public spats like Time Warner's RollOverOrGetTough.com.

So the laws are starting to become more even between cable and satellite companies, but in the meantime the cable companies still carry more Neighboring Local Channels than the satellite companies do.

IMHO, we will see cable companies dropping neighboring channels (as they ask for money) before we see the satellite companies adding more. The almightly $$$ strikes again.
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#10 OFFLINE   tonycpsu

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Posted 21 January 2010 - 11:30 AM

Good news for Philly sports fans:

http://www.pressofat...02b2974911.html

Hope Dish picks up CSN Philly soon.

#11 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 21 January 2010 - 12:33 PM

One naive guy is quoted in that article:

"The price of Comcast keeps going up and up," Johnson said. "Between Comcast phone and TV it's $109 a month. That's a lot of money."

Comcast is not going to give the channel to Dish or Direct as a freebee and neither Dish nor Direct are that great a bargain compared to Comcast.

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#12 OFFLINE   ziggy29

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Posted 21 January 2010 - 12:36 PM

One naive guy is quoted in that article:Comcast is not going to give the channel to Dish or Direct as a freebee and neither Dish nor Direct are that great a bargain compared to Comcast.

Then they have little to worry about by offering it to satellite providers, right?
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#13 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 21 January 2010 - 12:40 PM

Then they have little to worry about by offering it to satellite providers, right?

Well, they would be giving up an "exclusive" which forces sports fans to Comcast. If I were among the Philly sports fans, I'd be angry at my teams for allowing this to happen in the first place.;)

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#14 OFFLINE   Kheldar

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Posted 21 January 2010 - 12:43 PM

Well, they would be giving up an "exclusive" which forces sports fans to Comcast. If I were among the Philly sports fans, I'd be angry at my teams for allowing this to happen in the first place.;)


Since Comcast owns most of the local sports teams, the situation wasn't much of a surprise to start with.
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#15 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 21 January 2010 - 12:54 PM

Since Comcast owns most of the local sports teams, the situation wasn't much of a surprise to start with.

I didn't know they owned anything but the Flyers.:confused:

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#16 OFFLINE   Kheldar

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Posted 21 January 2010 - 01:16 PM

I didn't know they owned anything but the Flyers.:confused:


Comcast (actually "Comcast-Spectacor") owns the Flyers and the Sixers.
I apparently exaggerated by saying "most", but they do own the NHL and NBA teams for the city. I thought at one point they controlled the Eagles and Phillies, but I am apparently wrong on that.
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#17 OFFLINE   la24philly

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Posted 09 March 2010 - 04:49 PM

I wonder if Comcast will move more games to its alternate station.

in philadelphia a channel called CN8 has now been renamed TCN the comcast network.

It is our alternate sports station when 2 philly teams are playing at the same time.

I looked at the schedule for flyers and sixers and they both got 10 games each this year. not 1 game aired on CW57 or myphl17.

Comcast owns 100% of TCN they may try and move alot of games to that station.

verizon fios customers you now have CSN but you dont have the games that air on TCN.

i guess comcast will do what it can to keep philly fans being forced to pay their prices.

The hearing that took place by the FCC just gave comcast a middle finger lets hope they can shove it up and force comcast.

But lets say comcast is forced to offer the station do they make it a PPV channel?

Would they charge directv and dish people, ok here you want the channel fine but you will have to pay like 15 a month for it.

#18 OFFLINE   Paul Secic

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Posted 10 March 2010 - 01:18 PM

That's not a loophole, it's actual law. DirecTV and Dish Network can legally only carry locals of the DMA that you reside in and in your case, looks like you live in the Chicago DMA.

How the cable industry gets away with providing the locals of other DMA's is beyond me. In some parts of Iowa, Mediacom Cable offers CBS from three different in markets in one small town. Only thing I can think of is there is some sort of grandfather clause that allows cable to provide multiple locals from more than the DMA that you are legally to receive.


Back in the 90's I had TCI and the old AT&T Cable and I got Sacramento stations and WWOR. So they might be grandfathered.

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#19 OFFLINE   Jim5506

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Posted 10 March 2010 - 08:41 PM

Cable is covered by completely different laws.
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#20 OFFLINE   shadough

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Posted 12 March 2010 - 07:14 PM

CN8, or Comcast Network 8 has been around for years, over a decade I would say. They've simply renamed it The Comcast network an dropped the '8'. Originally only a NYC/Jersey station, has now expanded down into Virginia, but does regional coverage in the various regions. Its simply another channel that needs retran consent ($) to be aired on SATV (as well as needing customer demand for it). Similiar to Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast, or CSS for short. In the midwest its in another form called Comcast Local, allthough I think I read somewhere that CL was no more. None of these networks have ever gotten a retrans aggrement w/ any SAT provider.

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