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Cable Systems May Lose Some of Their Sports Exclusivity

Would affect telephone companies with local networks

Cable systems with local sports networks may soon be forced to offer their exclusive programming to telephone and satellite system rivals.

The Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday released an agenda for its Jan. 20, and on the list was a report and draft of possible new rules.

As telephone companies have moved into providing fiber-based alternatives to traditional cable systems, they’ve run into some issues obtaining rights to broadcast local sports programming held by cable systems.

Current FCC rules say that cable providers with national cable channels have to offer those channels to rivals, but say little about cable providers who offer local channels.

The issue would address complaints from AT&T and Verizon about Cablevision withholding rights for high-def New York sports programming, and complaints from AT&T that Cox is withholding San Diego Padres baseball games.

Direct broadcast providers have also complained that Comcast has withheld its Philadelphia sports channel, and Comcast has complained about DirecTV having exclusive rights to the NFL Sunday ticket package.