Game Show Network Scores One for Cable’s Little Guys in FCC Win

  • Altice, owner of former Cablevision, says it will appeal
  • Cablevision moved network to less-watched channel package

A federal official ruled Cablevision Systems Corp., now owned by Altice USA, unfairly treated Game Show Network by moving it to a less-watched channel package in 2011.

Cablevision, which was purchased earlier this year, was ordered to pay a maximum forfeiture of $400,000 by Federal Communications Commission Chief Administrative Law Judge Richard Sippel. He called it a small portion of what Cablevision has “reaped thus far from its discriminatory conduct.”

Cablevision, then controlled by the Dolan family, gave more favorable treatment to We TV, a channel with a similar audience that is separately run by the Dolans’ AMC Networks Inc., Sippel concluded. His order was issued on Tuesday and was made public on Wednesday.

The ruling could have implications for other companies that are tying together video programming ownership and distribution, such as pay-TV giant AT&T Inc., which is acquiring HBO owner Time Warner Inc.

“This could put some muscle behind the Davids of the world and make the Goliaths offer them some access,” Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, a Santa Monica, California-based consumer advocacy group.

Disputes between TV networks and the companies that distribute them could increase as the number of pay-TV subscribers falls and distributors roll out more so-called “skinny bundles” that offer consumers fewer channels for reduced monthly rates.

Cablevision in 2011 moved the network to a channel package that was more expensive than the widely subscribed expanded basic program package, Sippel wrote. As a result, Game Show Network lost 60 percent in household viewership in the New York market, Sippel wrote.

Altice disagrees and plans to appeal the decision, said Lisa Anselmo, a spokeswoman.

“We are pleased with the decision and what it says about the value of GSN to viewers and the loyalty of our audience,” the Game Show Network said in a statement Wednesday. The network is owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment and AT&T Entertainment Group, according to its website.

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