Cablevision v. GSN beef finally to be decided; MSO says network's claims are 'preposterous'

A four-year-old discrimination complaint filed against Cablevision (NYSE: CVC) by programmer Game Show Network (GSN) is about to finally be ruled on by an administrative law judge.

The FCC, which is administrating GSN's beef, released more than 2,700 pages of testimony from both sides, gathered in July. In that testimony, lawyers for GSN accused Cablevision of practicing "sleight of hand," when in February of 2011, the MSO cast the network off to a far-flung $6.95-a-month add-on sports pack.

GSN lawyers have argued that Cablevision carelessly -- or perhaps maliciously -- marooned a network rebranded from its game show roots to target women into a male-targeted ad-on tier.

"Game Show Network is not a sports network, and we will see that in documents," attorney Paul Schmidt said while testifying in July. While moving GSN to a tier it obviously didn't fit, Schmidt argued that Cablevision favored its own Wedding Central channel. 

With GSN partly owned by DirecTV (NYSE: T), the programmer described Cablevision as coercing the satellite carrier to give Wedding Central better placement on its own pay-TV service. 

In a statement to FierceCable, Cablevision said, "The Game Show Network (GSN) is limited in audience and unpopular with our customers, and it would be unfair for all Cablevision customers to pay for a network that so few watch. GSN's claim that a network airing primarily game shows is similar to a network of original programming for young women is preposterous. We believe that the administrative law judge will reject GSN's baseless complaint."  

For his part, Cablevision attorney Jay Cohen argued that even though GSN tried to broaden its brand to a general female audience with programming similar to WE, SoapNet, Lifetime and Oxygen, "the fact of the matter is they never strayed from their game show roots."

He also dismissed the argument that Cablevision was trying to leverage better carriage for Wedding Central on DirecTV. "There have been tens of thousands of documents presented in this case. You won't see a single document prior to the date on which the tiering decision was communicated to GSN," he said.

Lawyers for both GSN and Cablevision delayed going to trial as another programmer carriage complaint filed by Tennis Channel against Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) came to conclusion and established precedent. In 2013, a federal court overturned an FCC decision that Comcast has improperly refused to carry the channel.

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