FCC dismisses beIN Sports’ carriage complaint

Pay-television broadcaster beIN Sports has suffered a fresh blow in its ongoing carriage battle in the US after the Federal Communications Commission dismissed a complaint it had filed against media company Comcast.

BeIN Sports was last week dropped from the cable television systems of Comcast’s Xfinity service and telco Verizon’s Fios platform.

In March, beIN Sports USA filed a carriage complaint with the FCC against Comcast. BeIN claimed Comcast had favoured its own sports programming – Comcast owns sports networks NBC Sports and NBC Universo – “to the detriment of the beIN services”.

The broadcaster claimed Comcast had made a “patently unfair renewal proposal”, and criticised the operator for preventing it from showing HD programming, or from allowing subscribers to access beIN Sports Connect, its OTT platform.

BeIN also accused Comcast of violations of the Communications Act of 1934, FCC rules, the FCC order approving Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal and conditions set by the FCC for the takeover.

However, in a ruling issued on Friday the FCC said that “beIN Sports has failed to provide evidence sufficient to support its claim that the programming it would provide under the renewal agreement is similarly situated to the video programming provided by Comcast’s affiliated vendors, NBCSN and Universo.”

Comcast had argued that beIN would not guarantee what programming it would offer moving forward. In a statement, it said: “We applaud the FCC’s Media Bureau for dismissing beIN’s complaint and allowing us to make program carriage decisions based on sound business reasons and in the best interest of our customers.

“Our carriage of the beIN channels was consistent with how they are carried by most other cable and satellite providers as niche services on specialty and less-penetrated tiers. We in no way discriminated against beIN.”

BeIN currently holds US rights to the likes of the Spanish LaLiga and French Ligue 1 club football competitions, Women’s Tennis Association events and the MotoGP motorcycling championship.

It has launched an online campaign over the carriage disputes utilising the hashtags #KeepbeIN and #StopCarrierBarriers! Responding to the FCC ruling, Antonio Briceño, beIN Sports’ deputy managing director for the US and Canada, said: “We note the FCC has dismissed the case without prejudice, and provided a valuable roadmap going forward.

“The agency specifically explained it needs a more definitive indication of what programming would be featured on our networks. We are encouraged by the fact that the FCC provided no support for Comcast’s primary arguments and feel confident in our ability to supply information consistent with the FCC’s guidance.”