Tennis Channel Wins Better Comcast Cable Placement in U.S. Order

The Federal Communications Commission let stand an agency judge’s ruling that Comcast Corp. improperly placed the Tennis Channel in different viewing packages on its cable systems than the company’s own sports programs.

The agency, in a ruling posted on its website, denied the largest U.S. cable company’s request for a review of the December decision by Chief Administrative Law Judge Richard Sippel.

Comcast must carry Tennis Channel on the same distribution tier, reaching the same number of subscribers, as it does its own Golf Channel and NBC Sports Network, the FCC said. It left undisturbed Sippel’s assessment of a maximum penalty of $375,000 against Philadelphia-based Comcast.

The FCC gave Comcast 45 days to comply.

Investors in the closely held Tennis Channel include Apollo Partners, Bain Capital Ventures, Battery Ventures, CCMP Capital Advisors, Columbia Capital, DND Capital Partners LLC and former players Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras, according to the channel’s website.

Tennis Channel is gratified by the decision, Eric Abner, a spokesman for the Los Angeles-based venture, said in an e-mailed statement. “The commission’s decision constitutes a persuasive rejection of each argument Comcast has sought to make over the past several years,” Abner said.

Comcast is disappointed and will appeal to federal courts, Kyle McSlarrow, the Washington president of Comcast/NBCUniversal, said in an e-mailed statement.

“The decision will accomplish nothing other than to drive up programming costs and enrich a group of wealthy investors in the Tennis Channel,” McSlarrow said.