A few more ice crystals have formed on the already frosty relationship between beIN Sports and Comcast. The network was already dropped from Comcast’s XFinity systems last week. Verizon’s Fios systems also dropped beIN Sports.
beIN then filed a discrimination claim with the FCC. It claimed that Comcast was deliberately burying beIN and its soccer-heavy programming because Comcast owned NBCSN and its soccer-heavy programming.
The claim was dismissed by the FCC for multiple reasons, which were summarized nicely by Andrew Bucholtz of Awful Announcing.
The FCC’s decision relies on two key factors, with each described as an independent basis for the ruling; beIN didn’t provide enough evidence for a prima facie (first impression, or enough to require a rebuttal) case that their main beIN Sports channel and their beIN en Español channel are “similarly situated” to NBCSN and Universo, based at least partly on uncertainty about their future programming, and they also didn’t prove that Comcast had discriminated against their channels in the past.
Whether or not beIN and BeIN en Español were placed in a higher tier to give NBCSN and Universo an advantage with viewers is irrelevant since the beIN networks are regularly placed in a higher tier by most cable and satellite providers. It was a point Comcast highlighted in a press release regarding the decision.
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.
Comcast is in a carriage dispute with a number of higher tier sports networks right now. The Pac 12 Network is still struggling to gain clearance. The Big Ten Network’s ten year agreement with Comcast ends this month. beIN is the only one that tried to get the FCC involved, and that might make it the one with the least hope of finding an amicable resolution.