Comcast Wins Again in Program Carriage Dispute with beIN Sports at FCC

July 3, 2019

The FCC Media Bureau dismissed with prejudice and denied a program carriage complaint filed against Comcast in December 2018 by beIN. This is the third beIN complaint that the FCC has dismissed in the last two years.

Willkie represented Comcast at the FCC in a dispute with beIN Sports over the carriage of the beIN Sports networks, which air soccer matches and exclusive coverage of the La Liga and Ligue 1 leagues. The complaint, filed in December 2018, alleged discrimination on the basis of affiliation by Comcast. The FCC dismissed with prejudice beIN’s allegations relating to its Spanish-language network for failure to show that it was similarly situated to Comcast’s Universo network. The FCC denied the remainder of the case, relating to beIN’s English-language network, based on a complete pleading record. Fully embracing evidence and arguments concerning Comcast’s “legitimate business reasons” for its carriage decisions that Willkie submitted, the FCC found that “Comcast did not discriminate on the basis of affiliation or non-affiliation” against beIN because “there is no evidence that Comcast would benefit commercially from beIN’s carriage . . . and . . . Comcast has provided sufficient evidence to establish that it not only would derive no commercial benefit from beIN’s carriage, but also could, in fact, suffer commercial harm from continued carriage of beIN.”

The first complaint, filed by beIN in March 2018, claimed that Comcast discriminated on the basis of affiliation against beIN’s networks to favor NBC Sports Network and Universo. It was dismissed with the FCC concluding the programmer failed to provide evidence sufficient enough to prove that beIN and beIN en Español were similarly situated to these networks. Read Willkie’s August 17, 2018 announcement. A third complaint, filed in February 2019, alleged an unreasonable refusal to deal by Comcast. The FCC dismissed that complaint in March 2019. Read Willkie’s April 9, 2019 announcement.

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