December 19, 2017 — KIRKLAND, Wash.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Wave Broadband, a gigabit broadband and commercial fiber services company, today filed a claim with the FCC against Comcast’s NBC Regional Sports Networks (Comcast Sports Nets) alleging unfair business practices.
“Our goal at Wave is to provide our customers with choice and control over the content they receive,” said Steve Weed, Wave CEO. “Comcast’s sports division is attempting to force all video customers to subscribe to a single bundled channel package versus the choices we now offer—reducing consumer options and dramatically increasing costs.”
Wave, which distributes all video programming directly to its subscribers with zero markup (at the cost charged by programmers), offers two core tiers of video subscription services: Local Broadcast, which includes local broadcast channels; and Expanded Content, which includes a broad selection of cable networks. Unlike all other programming vendors, Comcast Sports Nets requires operators like Wave to sell a minimum number of expanded content subscriptions tied to the number of Local Broadcast tier subscribers.
As a result, Wave would be required to bundle localized versions of the Comcast Sports Nets (now branded as NBC Sports Northwest; NBC Sports Bay Area; NBC Sports California) channels included in its Local Broadcast tier, thus increasing its cost to subscribers significantly. Separately, Comcast’s other video division includes terms in its contract that requires its channels to be bundled into the same channel package as Comcast Sports Nets programming. As a result of those terms, all of Comcast’s content would have to be bundled into the Local Broadcast tier, further increasing its cost to subscribers. Additionally, other media companies—unrelated to Comcast Sports Nets—have terms in their contracts that require operators like Wave to bundle their channels in the same tier as Comcast Sports Nets’.
If Comcast Sports Nets prevails in forcing Wave to bundle its channels in the Local Broadcast tier, all video subscribers would then be forced to subscribe to this bundled channel package at a content cost of more than $70 per month—with consumers paying for more channels than they are interested in viewing.
Further, Comcast Sports Nets is making its programming available through alternative streaming platforms like FuboTV and others. With more ways for customers to access this programming, the demand for Wave to maintain a high penetration rate of subscribers to their channels is anticompetitive and yields double payment to Comcast for its programming.
“What consumers want is the ability to pay only for the content they want to watch,” continued Weed. “Comcast is trying to force their competitors like Wave to only offer a single set of bundled channels—this is the opposite of what consumers want.”