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Comcast prepares to boost Tennis Channel's reach

August 20, 2012|By Meg James
  • Serena Williams hammers a shot during the semifinals of the 2008 U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York. The Tennis Channel is hoping to be available in 18 million more Comcast Cable homes midway through this year's U.S. Open, which begins in late August.
Serena Williams hammers a shot during the semifinals of the 2008 U.S. Open… (Charles Krupa / Associated…)

The independently owned Tennis Channel might finally get the draw it has long hoped for during the upcoming U.S. Open tennis tournament: coverage in millions more homes served by cable giant Comcast Corp.

After a bruising three-year battle, the Federal Communications Commission last month ordered Comcast to make the Tennis Channel, which operates from its Santa Monica headquarters, available in the same package of channels as the Comcast-owned Golf Channel and NBC Sports Network.

The FCC voted 3-2 that Comcast had discriminated against the Tennis Channel by shunting it to a less popular, and more expensive, sports tier. The FCC decision marked the first time that a cable operator has been found in violation of federal anti-discrimination program carriage rules. 

Comcast earlier this month appealed the ruling to the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. However, the cable company is taking steps to comply with the FCC order. 

The company late last week began notifying its franchises and customers that the Tennis Channel might soon be popping up in more homes.

"On or about September 7, 2012, Tennis Channel, which is generally carried on the Sports Entertainment Package, will be included in the Digital Starter and Digital Preferred levels of service on most Comcast cable systems by order of the Federal Communications Commission," Comcast said in a posting on its website.

The move would make Tennis Channel available in about 18 million more Comcast Cable homes, thereby boosting the channel's nationwide reach to more than 50 million homes -- an important benchmark for advertisers.

But Comcast isn't throwing in the towel. It has asked an appeals court for an injunction that would block implementation.

"The order is being challenged," Comcast wrote, cautioning customers that the Tennis Channel might not move after all.  "Please check back periodically for updates and further information."


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