Verizon’s legal efforts to break the lock incumbent cable companies have on “must have” regional sports programming continues as it filed an FCC action that calls for the federal agency to “act promptly to stop incumbent cable television companies from illegally denying competitive video providers access to ‘must have’ regional sports programming.” Access to regional sports programming is the key to a broadcaster’s ability to compete in any given regional market and cable incumbents are stifling competition by refusing to provide access to other providers, according to Verizon.
“By denying competing video providers access to regional sports, the cable incumbents deny many consumers a meaningful choice in video services,” the company stated in its FCC filing. “Without access to the games of local sports teams (many of whom compete in facilities funded by taxpayer dollars and obtain other public benefits, such as exemption from antitrust laws), many viewers simply will not consider a competing provider’s video services.”
The FCC filing is the latest Verizon effort to break what they say is an anti-competitive stranglehold on regional sports programming. “The cable incumbents’ documented history of abusing their control of regional sports networks and other regional sports programming to deny customers a meaningful competitive choice and ongoing problem that must be addressed,” according to Verizon.
Verizon has some experience with these matters. In their New York City metro market, Verizon filed a progress access complaint against Cablevision with the FCC before the latter provided access to its MSG and MSG Plus regional sports channels. Cablevision still refuses to supply the HD version.
Verizon is citing the recent court action on MDU access as a contributing precedent to their RSN filing. The MDU ruling states that Section 628(b) of the Cable Act “‘prohibits any ‘unfair’ methods of competition or unfair or deceptive acts or practices, the purpose or effect of which is to hinder significantly or prevent any from providing satellite cable programming…to subscribers or consumers.’