Altice’s Cablevision Wins Appeal in Game Show Network Case

  • FCC judge had ordered $400,000 payment for demoting network
  • Cablevision in appeal said it used good-faith judgment

Cablevision Systems Corp., now owned by Altice USA Inc., didn’t unfairly treat Game Show Network by moving it to a less-watched channel package in 2010, the Federal Communications Commission ruled, reversing an earlier decision by an agency judge.

The action wipes out a fine of $400,000 ordered last year by an FCC judge, who called the penalty a small portion of what Cablevision had “reaped thus far from its discriminatory conduct.”

Cablevision appealed, saying there was no direct evidence of discrimination and it made a “good-faith business judgment” to reduce carriage of an unpopular network to save programming costs. The FCC agreed on a 2-1 vote Thursday.

Game Show Network was moved to a channel package that was more expensive than the widely subscribed expanded basic program package. Because of that, it lost 60 percent in household viewership in the New York market, FCC Chief Administrative Law Judge Richard Sippel found last year in the order that’s now overturned. Cablevision gave more favorable treatment to its own We TV, a channel with a similar audience, Sippel concluded.

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.

Game Show Network is controlled by Sony Corp., and AT&T Inc. has a 42 percent stake, according to security filings. Altice USA, based in Bethpage, New York, is the American cable-TV unit of billionaire Patrick Drahi’s Altice NV, which bought Cablevision in 2016.

“We are pleased by the FCC’s order, which is consistent with legal precedent and affirms our business decision,” Lisa Anselmo, an Altice spokeswoman, said in an email.

Alison Lazar, a spokeswoman for Game Show Network, declined to comment.

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