Dish: We will file Comcast complaint over sports

Unable to reach a deal to carry Phillies, Flyers, and 76ers games, Dish Network says it will file a complaint with federal regulators accusing Comcast Corp. of denying access to Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia.

Dish and DirecTV, the nation's two largest satellite providers, have said that Comcast's control of Philadelphia sports games gives it a competitive advantage in the marketing battle for pay-TV subscribers in the region.

The Federal Communications Commission, responding to concerns by pay-TV subscribers and the satellite companies, enacted regulations earlier this year that could force Comcast to distribute the regional sports network to Dish and DirecTV. Dish's complaint would be the first to test the new regulations.

Colorado-based Dish, the second-largest satellite provider, said it sent a letter to Comcast on June 21 seeking to begin negotiations to carry Comcast Philadelphia SportsNet. Comcast replied to Dish in a July 23 letter, saying it wouldn't grant access because of a "long-standing business policy," Dish said Friday.

"Comcast's refusal clearly demonstrates a disturbing pattern of discriminatory behavior," the company said in an e-mailed statement Friday.

Dish did not say when it would file the complaint with the FCC.

Comcast would talk about carriage but Dish Network has not shown that it suffered competitive injury without the regional sports network, the Philadelphia company said Friday.

"We remain willing to discuss carriage of Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia with Dish Network," Comcast said in a statement. "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. Comcast makes every one of its other networks, including nine national networks and 13 regional networks, available to all TV providers, including Dish."

Sports fans have complained for years about the situation. The dispute also presages a broader public-policy debate over exclusive pay-TV programming.

While Dish and DirecTV criticize Comcast over the regional sports network, Comcast has pointed out DirecTV's exclusive deal with the NFL for the Sunday Ticket and Dish's exclusive ethnic programming content.

The FCC will referee the Dish complaint and also is evaluating Comcast's proposed $30 billion merger with NBC Universal Inc.

One issue with the merger is whether Comcast would restrict NBC shows and Universal Studios movies to its own network, depriving competitors of that popular entertainment.

Comcast has said it would not keep NBC content from its competitors.


Contact staff writer Bob Fernandez at 215-854-5897 or bob.fernandez@phillynews.com.