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Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) won’t have to comply with a Federal Communications Commission order mandating distribution of the Tennis Channel on its cable systems while its appeal is pending.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington today granted Comcast’s request that the order be put on hold until the court decides whether to overturn the agency’s ruling that the largest U.S. cable operator said may cost it hundreds of millions of dollars.
“Petitioner has satisfied the requirements for a stay pending court review,” according to the one-page order signed by judges David Tatel, Janice Rogers Brown and Thomas Griffith.
Comcast, in a lawsuit filed Aug. 1, asked the appeals court to throw out the FCC ruling, which found the cable operator improperly discriminated against the Tennis Channel by making it available to subscribers who pay a higher subscription rate.
The FCC told Comcast to distribute the Tennis Channel to the same number of subscribers who don’t pay the additional rate and receive two of its own sports channels. Comcast called the ruling arbitrary and unconstitutional and said it would be forced to make payments to Tennis Channel for the programming.
The FCC also assessed $375,000 against Philadelphia-based Comcast. The agency on July 24 gave Comcast 45 days to comply with the distribution order.
“We are pleased the Court of Appeals has recognized the serious issues raised by the FCC’s unprecedented Tennis Channel decision and granted our request to stay the FCC’s action, sparing millions of our customers needless disruption,” Sena Fitzmaurice, a Comcast spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement.
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.
“We look forward to defending our order on the merits,” Mark Wigfield, an FCC spokesman, said in an e-mail.
Eric Abner, a Tennis Channel spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement that the company was disappointed by the court’s ruling.
“We believe that the FCC’s decision was correct and that the court will agree with the FCC when it considers the full case,” he said.
The court hasn’t scheduled arguments.
The case is Comcast Cable Communications LLC v. Federal Communications Commission, 12-01337, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (Washington).
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