Yesterday, the Federal Government laid the smack down on Comcast. Joe Biden can't believe Rebecca Haarlow isn't traveling on road trips. The cable provider -- and cable provider for the Portland Trail Blazers -- has been turning the screws to sports fans across the country for awhile now, and the FCC has had enough.
Amy Schatz of the Wall Street Journal summarizes...
The Federal Communications Commission voted Wednesday to stop cable operators from withholding local sports channels from rivals, potentially giving consumers more choice of pay-TV providers.
By a 4-1 margin, the agency's five-member board backed closing the so-called "terrestrial loophole" that cable operators, including Comcast Corp. and Cablevision Systems Corp., have used to keep local sports programming off TV services run by competitors such as Verizon Communications Inc.
The agency's board was also urged to close the "extraterrestrial loophole," a little-known magical closet within twitter that allowed Travis Outlaw to momentarily request intergalactic compensation, much to the chagrin of just about everyone. The board agreed to table that discussion until Outlaw is back on the court.
In all seriousness, that phrase above -- "keep local sports programming off TV services run by competitors" -- should sound familiar. If you thought what Comcast has been doing with its exclusive rights to Blazers games over the last few years just wasn't right, the FCC now officially agrees with you.
As Bob Fernandez of the Philly Inquirer quotes...
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement, "Consumers who want to switch video providers shouldn't have to give up their favorite team."
Surely a welcome statement for those stuck without access to Blazers games for years now. But practically speaking, when will there be boots on the ground and Blazers on your dish? An innocent question with grim answers.
First, Schatz and others note that further legal action -- an appeal from Comcast -- is possible...
It isn't clear yet whether any of the cable companies will challenge the FCC's decision in federal appeals court, although some analysts believe that such a challenge is likely.
If the thought of indefinite legal action going forward isn't mind-numbing and discouraging enough, Mike Rogoway of The Oregonian did some digging and discovered a key point: the dispute between DirecTV and Comcast over the Blazers isn't even directly impacted by the FCC's ruling. It turns out that yesterday's ruling only applies to cable companies trying to screw satellite companies by completely ignoring them, not cable companies trying to screw satellite companies by over-charging them!
I asked both Comcast SportsNet and DirecTV what the ruling means for talks on bringing the Blazers to satellite, and they gave similar, terse responses via e-mail:
"The two issues are not related," said Comcast SportsNet spokesman Tim Fitzpatrick.
"Correct, no bearing" on talks, said DirecTV's Robert Mercer.
While John Canzano did a very nice job of summarizing Blazer fan discontent and Dwight Jaynes has predicted another round of Blazers-related negotiations between the providers in the future, Blazers fans without Comcast today are in the same spot they were in prior to the ruling. The same spot they've been in for years now: on the couch watching a different game or on the computer dealing with justin.tv, with no end to the madness in sight.
Guh. This post was painful to type. Hopes raised, hopes shattered. Let's change the subject. At least Dante Cunningham is awesome.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter