Last month, Bloomberg made it known that it was quite unhappy with where Bloomberg TV was being placed in Comcast’s TV lineup. Bloomberg, which was generally placed in the low-100s of Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA) lineups, wanted to move down the dial to what it considered some better digital real estate. Today Comcast officially responded to Bloomberg’s allegations that it’s in violation of merger rules because of where it has placed Bloomberg’s channel, calling Bloomberg’s tactic of repeatedly going to the FCC over its channel placement “regulatory gamesmanship.”
Comcast explains that it didn’t position Bloomberg TV in the upper reaches of its channel lineup in order to punish it, but simply because channel real estate in the 1-99 block is scarce, the company says. There are “few, if any adjacent channel positions available” in that range, and offering one channel to Bloomberg would lead to other popular channels being moved from longtime slots. “The result of this cascade of channel recloations would be needless and ongoing disruption to Comcast’s customers,” the cable company’s lawyers say in their new filing [PDF].
As for the rule Bloomberg says Comcast is violating, it’s a narrowly tailored condition that would take effect only if Comcast puts a “significant number” of news or business channels in a “neighborhood,” argues Comcast-something it hasn’t done. Comcast has news channels both in groupings and outside them, as do its competitors.
In any case, the “neighborhood” that Bloomberg is in right now isn’t so bad, argues Comcast. In many areas, such as it’s already located near other news channels, such as Current TV, Fox (NSDQ: NWS) Business, and C-SPAN.
In its complaint filed last month, Bloomberg argued that the newly merged Comcast-NBCU was already violating its merger agreement by giving Bloomberg bad channel placements that favored its own CNBC financial news network.
In today’s filing, Comcast says that this is Bloomberg’s “second attempt to extract preferential channel placement on Comcast’s cable systems through regulatory gamesmanship.” The first was when Bloomberg tried to get the FCC to force Comcast to engage in “neighborhooding” from the get-go. Instead, it got a narrowly tailored condition; and Bloomberg has now said Comcast is violating that condition.
Bloomberg responded to Comcast’s new filing with a statement, saying in part: “Despite these strongly worded [FCC] concerns, Comcast is not obeying clearly defined conditions, as Comcast continues to assert that ‘now’ does not mean ‘now’ and that their programming neighborhoods are not neighborhoods.” (Via Variety.)
Comcast appears to be on the losing end of a separate dispute about channel placement that is nearing a conclusion. Regulators have recommended that Comcast be fined $375,000 and be forced to put the Tennis Channel near competitors like Golf Channel and Versus, which often get placements between 7 and 20, reports Bloomberg. Tennis Channel, meanwhile, was placed in the low-700s.