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Cable Firms May Withhold Non-Sports Programs From Competitors

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Cable Companies Freed From Sharing Their Non-Sports Programs
Dish Network Corp. , DirecTV and telephone providers AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. told the agency that cable companies are still powerful enough that the FCC should require them to share networks. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Oct. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Cable providers such as Time Warner Cable Inc. may withhold their non-sports programming from competitors, U.S. regulators said today in a rule change opposed by satellite broadcasters.

The Federal Communications Commission on a 5-0 vote declined to extend program-sharing requirements put in place 20 years ago to boost competition to cable companies, whose dominance has faded as consumers turn to other pay-TV providers including Dish Network Corp. and DirecTV.

The FCC in an order released yesterday let the sharing rule expire. The agency in the order also said it would presume that cable companies are required to share regional sports networks that show professional and collegiate contests, and set up a complaints process for competitors seeking access.

“Today’s unanimous decision enables the FCC to continue preventing anticompetitive video distribution arrangements through a legally sustainable, expeditious, case-by-case review,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said yesterday in an e-mailed statement.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association, a trade group with members including Comcast Corp., the biggest cable provider, and No. 2 Time Warner asked the commission to eliminate the sharing requirement. Rules aren’t needed because there is now “robust and irreversible” competition, the Washington-based group said in a filing.

Cable Power

Dish, DirecTV and telephone providers AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. told the agency that cable companies are still powerful enough that the FCC should require them to share networks.

The phone companies have introduced video services and had disputes over access to cable-owned networks showing San Diego Padres baseball and high-definition New York Knicks basketball games.

Comcast agreed to separate program-sharing obligations when it bought NBC Universal last year. Those requirements expire in 2018.

To contact the reporter on this story: Todd Shields in Washington at tshields3@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bernard Kohn at bkohn2@bloomberg.net

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