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Google and Time Warner Cable trade shots

October 03, 2012|By Joe Flint
(Google, Inc. )

Google and Time Warner Cable are not playing nice with each other.

In Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., Google is launching a broadband pay-TV service to compete with Time Warner Cable and other distributors in the area. Google has struck deals with lots of programmers including ESPN, Discovery and CBS.

However, Time Warner Cable is resisting selling some of its content to Google. Time Warner Cable owns a local sports channel there called Metro Sports. It not only has Division One college sports but also a good deal of high school athletics, which are quite popular.

In a recent meeting with the Federal Communications Comission, Google raised the matter. While a letter disclosing that Google representatives met with the FCC only said it was to discuss the importance of having access to local sports programming, people familiar with the matter said the real issue was Metro Sports.

FCC regulations prohibit a distributor such as Time Warner Cable from refusing to sell content it owns to a rival distributor. Time Warner Cable has said it is following the rules in its dealings with Google. However, Time Warner Cable believes it does not have to make all of the channel available to Google.

"Time Warner Cable has absolutely offered, and continues to offer, what the FCC describes as MetroSports’ “must-have” live regional sports programming – men's and women's Division I basketball -- at fair and reasonable prices.  As for the remaining programming on MetroSports, we have long invested in local programming, and they are welcome to do the same," the company said in a statement.

In another two days, this fight may be called because there will be no referee. On Friday, the FCC is expected to phase out the program access rule that requires Time Warner Cable or any distributor to make content it owns available to a rival at a reasonable price. 

Google has been making the case to keep the rules, while Time Warner Cable has told the FCC that the rules are no longer necessary.

The FCC isn't the only place Google and Time Warner Cable are at odds. Time Warner Cable is concerned about some of the perks Google received in return for launching its service. According to the Wall Street Journal, Time Warner Cable is seeking some of the same enticements Google got from local governments in the two Kansas Cities. For example, the WSJ said in Kansas City, Kan., that Google was charged an annual fee of only $10 per-pole to attach its cables to utility poles. Time Warner Cable paid $18.95.

"We're happy to compete with Google, but we'd just like an even playing field," Time Warner Cable spokesman Alex Dudley told the WSJ.

ALSO:

Google Fiber lands NFL Network

Google Fiber strikes deal with Disney

FCC's program access rules headed towards extinction

 Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.

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