Tennis Channel takes on Comcast again

Tennis Channel brings coverage of the sport to about 35 million U.S. homes.
Tennis Channel brings coverage of the sport to about 35 million U.S. homes. (GREGORIO BORGIA / AP)
Posted: December 11, 2013

Tennis Channel and Comcast Corp. are still slapping baseline shots at each other - now in the nation's highest court.

Tennis Channel has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the legal question of whether Comcast should make Tennis' 24-hour sports channel available to nearly all Comcast TV subscribers.

At stake is millions of dollars in revenue for Tennis Channel and an interpretation of the 1992 Cable Act in how it relates to protecting independent programmers.

Tennis Channel says Comcast is discriminating against it or treating it differently from the Comcast-owned Golf Channel by asking subscribers to pay $5 more a month for it. Comcast does not ask for a similar fee for Golf Channel.

Comcast lawyers say that the government cannot tell the cable-TV giant how to distribute entertainment content to its subscribers and that the Tennis Channel would add costs to subscriber monthly bills.

Tennis Channel is seen in about 35 million U.S. homes, many of them satellite-TV providers that own part of the channel. The Golf Channel is distributed to most of Comcast's 21.6 million cable-TV subscribers. Tennis Channel is available to about three million Comcast viewers who pay the fee, according to previous reports.

"The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has spoken emphatically and unanimously that Comcast did not discriminate against the Tennis Channel. We are confident that this ruling will continue to be upheld," Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice said in a statement.

The issue seemed resolved at the Federal Communications Commission in July 2012 when the regulatory agency ruled in Tennis Channel's favor. The commission said Tennis Channel should be distributed to as many homes as Golf Channel, so that it was being treated equally.

But the Washington appeals court unanimously overturned the FCC's decision in Comcast's favor, saying the FCC overstepped its authority. The appeals court declined to reconsider the three-judge decision, thus the petition to the Supreme Court.

"The court's decision not only failed to recognize where that responsibility lies, but also rewrote a vital portion of Congress' 1992 Cable Act and federal discrimination law," Tennis Channel spokesman Eric Abner said in a statement.


BY THE NUMBERS

3M

Comcast cable-TV subscribers who currently get Tennis Channel.

$5

Extra cost per month that those subscribers pay

to get Tennis Channel.

21.6M

Approximate number of Comcast cable-TV subscribers, most of whom get Golf Channel.

$0

Cost to those subscribers to get Golf Channel.


bfernandez@phillynews.com

215-854-5897 @bobfernandez1

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