Comcast Prevails in Regional Sports Network Dispute at FCC

March 15, 2018

Willkie represented Comcast NBCUniversal in a dispute with Wave Broadband over the carriage of regional sports networks (RSNs) at the Federal Communications Commission.

In December 2017, Wave filed a petition for declaratory ruling at the FCC claiming that NBCUniversal’s licensing of RSNs to online video distributors interfered with its ability to meet contractual commitments with respect to carriage of those RSNs in its agreements with NBCUniversal.

NBCUniversal responded that Wave’s allegations were essentially an untimely program access complaint over terms and conditions of affiliation agreements for RSNs that were entered into three years prior and that had since expired. NBCUniversal argued that Wave’s claims were meritless, as they were directed at NBCUniversal’s pro-competitive conduct of licensing its programming to online video distributors, and that the terms at issue were consistent with terms under which numerous other distributors had agreed to carry the RSN programming.

In a March 2018 decision, the FCC sided with NBCUniversal, rejecting Wave’s argument that the FCC should consider its claims as a declaratory ruling matter rather than as a program access complaint. The FCC found that Wave’s program access claims were time-barred, denied its request for a waiver of the one-year time limit for bringing a program access complaint, and dismissed the petition.

The Willkie team included partners Michael Hurwitz and David Murray, and associates Melanie Medina and Brenna Sparks.