Bloomberg TV is making a renewed push to fight its way out of the nosebleed section of Comcast’s channel line-up. Tired of being stuck at 103 on the dial in New York and Washington, Bloomberg wants the FCC to make Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA) include it in a “news neighborhood” of channels under the terms that govern the cable giant’s merger with NBC.
Bloomberg may be counting on better channel placement to increase its share of the lucrative TV news market. Even though Bloomberg TV reportedly earned $23 million in 2009, it still trails far behind CNBC (now owned by Comcast) which earned $370 million that year, and it has yet to become a core part of the Bloomberg business empire.
Bloomberg’s latest arguments, filed yesterday with the FCC, say Comcast is fudging the definition of channel “neighborhoods.” Bloomberg believes that a neighborhood exists whenever there are four shows of a similar theme — like news or sports — within five spots of each other on the dial and that Comcast is unfairly excluding it from these groupings. It would prefer to hang out nearer CNBC which is on channels 47 in New York and 39 in Washington.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Comcast said the claims are “fabricated, nonsensical and inconsistent” and implied that Bloomberg is whining for special favors from the government. Comcast is also taking the legal position that there must be at least ten channels grouped together to make a neighborhood.
The companies are also sparring about when the FCC’s instructions about channel neighborhoods went into effect. Bloomberg says they apply from the time of the merger while Comcast says the rules only apply to new neighborhoods. Fine print lovers can decide for themselves. Here is an excerpt from the FCC’s massive merger document:
122. In addition, although we decline to adopt a requirement that Comcast affirmatively undertake neighborhooding, in accordance with the special importance of news programming to the public interest, we adopt a narrowly tailored condition related to channel placement for independent news channels. Specifically, we require that if Comcast now or in the future carries news and/or business news channels in a neighborhood, defined as placing a significant number or percentage of news and/or business news channels substantially adjacent to one another in a system’s channel lineup, Comcast must carry all independent news and business news channels in that neighborhood.
The fight between the companies first began in June when Bloomberg filed a complaint with the FCC demanding that Comcast give it better channel placement in its 35 largest markets. Comcast’s answer in late July includes a warning about “massive consumer confusion.”
The outcome is likely to turn on whether or not the case goes directly back to the Commissioners as Bloomberg wants. The company fears that if the case goes to an administrative law judge — which is what Comcast wants — the cable giant will be able to tie it up in legal red table, leaving Bloomberg hanging out next to the Discovery Channel for years to come.
Bloomberg TV was created in the United States in 1994 and has since expanded to include a host of international affiliates including Bloomberg India and Bloomberg Europe.