Comcast Wins Stay of FCC Tennis Channel Order

Channel loses out on wider distribution for U.S. Open

Roger Federer and Serena Williams are going to be tough to find next week for tennis fans who subscribe to Comcast. That's because the Tennis Channel is going to remain in Comcast's lesser trafficked, high-channel-number sports tier—at least for a little while.

Score match for Comcast, which won its request for a stay against the Federal Communications Commission's recent decision that would force the MSO to move the Tennis Channel to a more widely distributed tier on its cable lineup.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Friday granted the cable giant's request for a stay, meaning that for now, the Tennis Channel remains packaged as part of a specialty tier, missing out on wider distribution for the U.S. Open beginning Aug. 27.

The FCC, in a 3-2 vote, ruled in late July that Comcast had discriminated against the Tennis Channel and must move it to a tier on par with other sports networks, including the Comcast-owned Golf Channel and NBC Sports Networks. Comcast argued that the FCC's decision overruled what it had previously negotiated with the Tennis Channel—a deal the channel itself approved. Within days, Comcast filed for a stay with the appeals court charging the FCC's decision was "arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion within the meaning of the Administrative Procedure Act."

"We are pleased the Court of Appeals has recognized the serious issues raised by the FCC's unprecedented Tennis Channel decision and granted our request to stay the FCC's action, sparing millions of our customers needless disruption. We look forward to presenting our case to the court," said Sena Fitzmaurice, Comcast's vp of government communications.

The two GOP commissioners who dissented in the FCC's Tennis Channel order, felt vindicated. "As stated in our joint dissent, we believe the decision errs on both the law and the facts, undermines the public interest, and raises serious First Amendment concerns. We look forward to the federal appeals court giving this matter a full and fair hearing while preventing irreparable harm to the parties," commissioners Robert McDowell and Ajit Pai said in a statement.