There’s another carriage dispute brewing, and it could have big implications for soccer fans. After failing to reach terms on a new deal with Comcast, beIN Sports (the soccer-focused channel whose current programming highlights include Spain’s La Liga and France’s Ligue 1) has pulled its channels from the provider, and they may be set to do the same with Verizon. Here’s more on that from Bob Fernandez of The Philadelphia Daily News:
BeIN Sports, which televises European soccer games, pulled its channels from Comcast Corp. early Wednesday morning after the two companies failed to agree to new terms for a distribution agreement, which includes subscriber fees. The prior agreement expired on midnight Tuesday.
Then Verizon said Wednesday afternoon that its beIN Sports contract was expiring and the two sides were far apart on a deal. So, beIN Sports would likely be pulled from its systems in Philadelphia and other East Coast areas at midnight, Verizon spokesman Raymond McConville said.
…Comcast and Verizon said that beIN was seeking significant hikes in the subscriber fees. These fees are charged to Comcast and Verizon for beIN Sports channels and passed to consumers through monthly bills.
…“The truth is, we face a disheartening trend of media consolidation, where the big get bigger and innovative brands like ours that serve diverse audiences get pushed-out,” Antonio Briceno, head of beIN Sports in the United States and Canada, said on Wednesday.
Many of these carriage disputes tend to take place right before important broadcasts, giving the channel perhaps a bit more leverage, and this fits the pattern with the La Liga season starting soon. But the disputes aren’t always resolved in time; last fall’s CBS-Dish dispute was settled ahead of the Iron Bowl, but after customers missed the Cowboys-Chargers Thanksgiving game. And this isn’t the only one going on at the moment; Big Ten Network is currently in a battle of their own with Comcast, which could even affect Big Ten games on FS1, and the Pac-12 Networks are reportedly in a fight to remain on AT&T U-Verse (never mind DirecTV, which they’re still unable to get).
But this one is particularly notable, as it comes after beIN filed an FCC complaint in June alleging that Comcast was keeping them down to promote their own property, NBC Sports Network, and its English soccer coverage. Comcast has denied those allegations, but that’s part of the overall strained relationship here. [Update: The FCC dismissed beIN’s complaint Thursday.] And the sides seem a ways apart; Comcast said they offered beIN “reasonable renewal terms” and were shot down, and Verizon said they were “far apart” from beIN as well. We’ll see if there are enough people who really want beIN to make Comcast and Verizon agree to more favorable terms, or if beIN eventually agrees to take less to get back on these big providers. This one will be worth watching.