FCC to Mediate Verizon-Cablevision Fight

Verizon Communications Inc. on Wednesday said it has petitioned federal regulators for access to Cablevision Systems Corp.’s New York area sports programs in high-definition TV.

Verizon, which is wiring New York City with a rival FiOS fiber-optic TV service, filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission alleging that Cablevision won’t sell its Madison Square Garden network sports programming in HD to the phone company.

Verizon said Cablevision has “intentionally and unlawfully” refused to provide access to regional sports programming “on any terms.”

The phone company cited lack of access to HD rights to the New York Knicks, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres games. Cablevision owns the Knicks and Rangers and holds the broadcast rights to the other teams.

Cablevision said in a statement that it “complies fully with federal regulations, which do not require us to license our local HD programming to anyone.”

Verizon said Cablevision has a competitive advantage over rivals because of its hold on local sports programming in HD. As such, Verizon said it can’t sign up subscribers who want to watch these games.

The New York-based phone company said Cablevision previously refused to make these games available in standard definition TV until it petitioned the FCC to intervene.

Verizon has asked the FCC to make a ruling on the HD games within five months.

Shares of Verizon fell 75 cents to $28.43 in afternoon trading on Wednesday. Bethpage, N.Y.-based Cablevision was down 27 cents to $17.35.

Nielsen Business Media