The Tennis Channel won a major victory in its long-standing carriage complaint against Comcast. Federal Communications Commission administrative law judge Richard Sippel ruled that Comcast must move Tennis Channel to the same programming tier as other similar affiliates, such as Comcast-owned Golf Channel and Versus.
Santa Monica. Calif.-based Tennis Channel initially filed its complaint against Comcast in late 2010, asserting that Comcast was favoring its own channels over independently owned Tennis Channel by placing it on a premium sports tier rather than a more broadly distributed sports tier.
Judge Sippel agreed. In the ruling released Tuesday, he said that Comcast "unreasonably restrained Tennis Channel's ability to compete fairly." He also imposed the maximum fine on Comcast of $375,000. Comcast argued that to put the Tennis Channel on another tier would be costly.
"Comcast has the contractual right to distribute Tennis Channel as it does currently, and Comcast firmly believes that the exercise of that right to minimize costs to consumers is not discrimination," said a Comcast spokeswoman in an emailed statement. "We believe it is wrong for Tennis Channel to use the government to impose higher costs and prices on private enterprise and consumers, and we look forward to the review process."
The decision is still subject to further review by the full commission and, suggested Comcast, the U.S. Court of Appeals "if needed."