Spanish-language broadcaster Liberman Broadcasting, operator of the Estrella TV network, has filed an FCC complaint against Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA), accusing the conglomerate of blacking out its owned and operated stations in Denver, Houston and Salt Lake City in order to favor its own Spanish-language programming assets, which include Telemundo and NBC Universo.
Since Comcast dropped the three stations, "Estrella's ratings have collapsed," Liberman Broadcasting President and CEO Lenard Liberman said during a morning press conference to announce the complaint.
"When you look at all the MVPDs who carry us, Comcast is the outlier," he said. "Whether it's Time Warner Cable or Charter or AT&T or Dish, we've always had good conversations, and they've acknowledged our our place in the market. But in the case of Comcast, they've always been dismissive of our ratings and our value in the market."
Key to Liberman's complained, the CEO added, is Comcast's demand that Estrella cede digital rights in the three affected markets.
"Liberman Broadcasting has no case based on the law or the facts," responded Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice, in a statement. "First, as a threshold matter, the program carriage rules simply do not cover broadcasters like Liberman. They do not apply to broadcast networks. Second, Comcast did not drop Estrella TV; Liberman pulled the broadcast stations in three markets, and Comcast continues to carry Estrella TV to about six million subscribers across the country.
"This purported carriage complaint is just the latest attempt by Liberman to extract carriage and fees from Comcast that are in no way justified based on the weak performance of Estrella TV," Fitzmaurice added.
In February, Liberman Founder and Chairman Jose Liberman sent a letter to select House of Representative officials, calling the impasse with Comcast a "real-life David versus Goliath battle."
"With Estrella TV now surpassing Telemundo in the Los Angeles market and elsewhere, it is troubling to see Comcast act irresponsibly by putting its own self-serving business interests ahead of a small minority-owned company, and ahead of Comcast's Hispanic customers," the elder Liberman said.
- read this Liberman Broadcasting statement
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