Blog Post

Court: Cable Can’t Keep All the Good Stuff

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled today that cable companies can’t withhold programming from competitors, affirming rules put in place by the FCC to guarantee fair competition amongst pay TV service providers, according to a BusinessWeek report. Comcast (s CMCSK) and Cablevision (s CVC) had challenged these rules in court; today’s rejection of this challenge marks an important victory not only for smaller cable and satellite TV providers, but also for IPTV services like Verizon’s (s VZ) FIOS TV.

The court decision is also likely to have an impact on the proposed merger between Comcast and NBC (s GE), which has come under increased scrutiny by law makers and the FCC alike.

A merger between the broadcaster and the cable giant would put Comcast in control of programs like NBC’s Nightly News as well as its exclusive coverage of sport events like the Olympics. Comcast would have been able to restrict Olympics programming to Comcast subscribers if the court had sided with the cable companies. In fact, Comcast spokeswoman Jennifer Khoury specifically complained that satellite providers currently have the right to offer exclusive access to sports events like NFL Sunday Ticket and NASCAR Hot Pass, in a news release put out in reaction to the ruling.

Both the FCC and Free Press have hailed the decision, with the advocacy group cautiously adding that the current rules are only in place until 2012. Cable companies have repeatedly lamented that current regulations are in many cases restricted to their companies while satellite and IPTV providers have been given much more leeway. Of course, cable hopes that restrictions like the one that prevailed in court today will eventually be nixed across the board, but one could also argue that the FCC will have to come up with a whole new framework of regulations to include not only IPTV, but over-the-top providers who have been longing for access to programming for some time.

Related content on GigaOm Pro: Why Apple Could Be a Loser In The Comcast-NBC Deal (subscription required)

2 Responses to “Court: Cable Can’t Keep All the Good Stuff”

  1. I may be splitting hairs here, but “IPTV services like Verizon’s FIOS TV” is not entirely accurate. Verizon FiOS TV is not IPTV – Verizon uses an IP overlay for VOD and some widgets, but their core video service is no different than cable TV, at least from a technology point of view.

  2. This is indeed a victory for DirecTV, Dish, Verizon and AT&T. I think there is a big difference over the availability of local pro sports and out of market packages.

    All video subscribers in the local market should get all their local team’s games, as long as they are produced. Currently, DirecTV and Dish Network subscribers in the Philadelphia market can’t get their regional sports network, with most 76ers, Flyers and Phillies games because Comcast, who owns the network as well as the 76ers and Flyers, won’t offer it to the satcasters, giving their cable systems a huge competitive advantage.

    Similarly in New York, MSG, which was just spun off from Cablevision, won’t offer the HD feeds of their MSG sports networks to Verizon FiOS, even touting that in their commercials, although the SD feeds are on FiOS.

    I wonder what this means for local news networks like Cablevision’s News 12 and Time Warner’s NY1, which were designed as a value added incentive to subscribe to cable and not satellite. Will they be forced to offer them to DirecTV and Verizon now?