Comcast and Tennis Channel headed for a tiebreaker


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Comcast Corp. and the Tennis Channel have agreed to let a mediator play line judge to resolve their long-running dispute.

The move comes just a few weeks after the Federal Communications Commission said it would review allegations that cable behemoth Comcast was discriminating against the independently owned Tennis Channel.


The Santa Monica-based Tennis Channel maintains that it was put at a competitive disadvantage by its inclusion in a more costly package of sports channels that has fewer subscribers. Payments to cable channels are based on the number of homes they reach. At the same time, Comcast makes the sports channels it owns, including the Golf Channel and Versus, available to all its cable subscribers.

Comcast countered that the Tennis Channel agreed to be placed in the more exclusive package when Comcast struck a deal several years ago to carry the service. The mediation should help Comcast avoid a protracted battle with a small channel at a time when the company is depending upon the FCC to approve its proposed merger with NBC Universal. Critics contend that a Comcast-controlled NBC would give too much power to the Philadelphia-based cable company, which it could use to favor its own networks at the expense of competitors.

The two companies filed papers with the FCC saying it would complete mediation by Nov. 24.

-- Meg James