Comcast, DISH network spar over Philly sports channel

DISH wrote to Comcast on June 21 requesting access to the channel; it received what it called an outright refusal on July 23. Comcast spokesman Tim Fitzpatrick said in a statement the company is willing to continue negotiations, but does not believe it must offer every local network to all competitors.

The issue is unique to Philadelphia, as Comcast allows access to all of its other national and regional networks to all TV providers, including DISH. Comcast has denied access to Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia to DirecTV and DISH but given it to other competitors, including Verizon and RCN.

"We remain willing to discuss carriage of Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia with DISH Network. Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia has always been available to Comcast's local competitors, including Verizon and RCN, and our distribution policies have been upheld by both the FCC and the courts," Fitzpatrick said.

"The FCC's recent Terrestrial Order does not require Comcast to offer Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia or any other terrestrially delivered network to every distributor. It only allows claims where the provider has suffered a competitive injury, and there is no evidence Dish has suffered such an injury."

The FCC voted in January to close the "terrestrial loophole" in the program access rules that allowed cable companies to limit access to local channels transmitted on terrestrial, or local, cable. Previously, cable providers were required to give competitors access to satellite channels but local channels transmitted by terrestrial cable were exempted.

In filing a complaint, DISH would have to show that Comcast's refusal to allow it access has caused it to suffer competitively. The company denied the situation with the local sports channel is analogous to other types of exclusive satellite content such as DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket and repeated its opposition to Comcast's proposed merger with NBC Universal, which would expand the cable giant's stable of local networks.

"It is this type of anti-competitive conduct that reinforces our argument that the merger between Comcast and NBCU poses a grave threat to competition in the multichannel video market," DISH said.