The Federal Communications Commission ruled on Wednesday (Jan. 20) that incumbent cable television providers that control unique, regional sports programming can no longer unilaterally refuse to provide access to that programming, including high-definition feeds, to competing providers.
In a 4-1 decision, FCC commissioners concluded that withholding regional sports programming presumptively violates section 628 of the Cable Act and is anti-competitive. The order, approved at Wednesday's open meeting, includes "standstill" language barring cable companies from cutting off access to programming during program renewal negotiations.
Verizon, which competes with Cablevision in the television market with its FiOS TV, filed a program access complaint against Cablevision in July because the cable incumbent continually denied Verizon access to high-definition versions of regional sports programming Cablevision controls in New York and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut.
The following statement should be attributed to Kathleen Grillo, Verizon senior vice president of Federal Regulatory Affairs:
"This is a big-time victory for television sports fans. The FCC's decision to make must-see regional sports programming, including high-definition feeds, presumptively available to competitors, puts viewers in the driver's seat. This ruling means that consumers will no longer have to stick with their incumbent cable provider in order to watch local teams in high definition."