Judge tosses out suit against Comcast filed by jilted Boston affiliate

A federal judge has tossed a lawsuit filed by Boston NBC affiliate station WHDH-TV against Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA).

Comcast's NBCUniversal division announced in January that it will end its affiliation agreement with WHDH and broadcast the NBC Television Network out of its owned-and-operated WNEU-TV starting on January 1, 2017. Sunbeam Television Corp.-owned WHDH then sued Comcast for failing to live up to public service mandates made during its acquisition of NBCU in 2011.

"But absent any actionable harm attributable to Comcast, it is simply an indurate consequence of doing business in a competitive and unsentimental marketplace," Judge Richard Stearns said.

WHDH said that since WNEU's signal doesn't reach as many viewers, Comcast is failing in public service pledges tied to the NBCU merger. 

"The losses WHDH will suffer as a result of the expiration of its affiliate contract have no causal relationship to the geographical reach of WNEU's broadcast signal and any resulting loss of access by viewers to free over-the-air television content," Stearns said. 

"WHDH's losses are the same no matter how large or small is the segment of the public able to receive WNEU's signal," the judge added. 

WHDH also accused Comcast of trying to "monopolize the market for commercial television." But Stearns said that Comcast's decision "does not, as a matter of law, amount to monopolistic exclusionary conduct."

NBCU responded with this statement: "We're very pleased with the court's decision and we look forward to delivering Boston-area viewers the best local news, weather and information — along with the NBC news, sports, prime time and late-night programming they already know and enjoy — when NBC Boston launches on Jan. 1, 2017."

However, as the Boston Globe noted, Judge Stearns did appear somewhat sympathetic to WHDH's plight, advising the broadcaster to seek recourse with the FCC.

For more:
- read this Boston Herald story
- read this Boston Globe story

Related articles:
Comcast asks court to throw out suit filed by Boston's jilted NBC affiliate WHDH-TV
Boston's WHDH-TV files suit against Comcast for pulling NBC affiliation
NBC set to drop Boston affiliate, launch new Beantown O&O more focused on OTA business