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Carriage Deals

Dish Settles Access Complaint Over MSG RSNs

Part of Larger Settlement of Program Issues Involving Dolan Properties 11/01/2012 11:14 AM Eastern

Dish Network has quietly dropped its program access complaint against MSG Holdings as part of a larger settlement with a number of properties controlled by the Dolans.

Though it was not included in announcements of the various elements of the settlement, the day after its $700 million settlement with AMC and Cablevision was announced Oct. 21, Dish asked the FCC to dismiss its program-access complaint against MSG over access to its New York regional sports networks, which like Cablevison and AMC are separate companies all under control of the Dolan family.

Dish filed the complaint in September 2010 in advance of an Oct. 1 expiration of its carriage deal with MSG MSG and MSG Plus. Those nets came off Dish's air, along with their Knicks, Rangers, Devils, Islanders and Sabres games and related programs, after a deal could not be struck.

The FCC's Media Bureau dismissed the complaint, pointing out that in filing the motion, Dish said it had "reached a settlement of the claims" it had made in the complaint, though an MSG source says that settlement does not include access to those RSNs.

The FCC pointed out that although it had asked both sides to submit a briefing schedule for the complaint last January, it had heard nothing from either side until the Oct. 22 Dish request to dismiss the complaint.

One of the three counts in Dish's complaint, that Cablevision had exerted undue influence over negotiations for the RSNs, had already been dismissed by the FCC in May of last year for lack of evidence. But the other two counts alleging MSG was discriminating against Dish and unfairly hindering the No. 2 DBS provider's access to must-have sports programming particularly critical to its service had remained on the table.

The FCC recently sunset its ban on exclusive contracts, but is currently considering whether to, as part of the access protections still on the books, create a rebuttable presumption in access complaints that a distributor's withholding of access to a co-owned RSN is unfair.

September