Wave files FCC complaint against Comcast over regional sports networks

Wave said that it tried to renegotiate carriage terms with Comcast, but those attempts were rebuffed. (Image: Wave Broadband)

Unable to reach a licensing renewal agreement for Comcast-owned regional sports networks (RSNs), Kirkland, Washington-based Wave Broadband has filed a complaint with the FCC, alleging that its previous carriage deal with Comcast for the channels went bad, but that the No. 1 cable operator crammed the pact down Wave’s throat, anyway. 

Wave, which delivers fiber broadband and TV services to around 129,000 subscribers in the Seattle, San Francisco, Sacramento and Portland markets, and competes with Comcast in many of those areas, signed deals to carry Comcast’s recently rebranded NBC Sports Regional Networks in 2013 and 2014. 

These agreements will expire at the turn of the calendar year, and Wave and Comcast appear locked in a negotiation impasse in regard to renewing carriage.

As described by the Seattle Times, the previous deal went south when subscribers sign-ups among Wave customers for NBC Sports Bay Area, NBC Sports California and NBC Sports Northwest didn't meet the minimum set in the carriage deal. 

Wave claims that Comcast helped facilitate this problem by licensing these NBC Sports RSNs to over-the-top services like Sling TV and Hulu Live, offering Wave’s broadband customers a cheaper way to obtain the sports channels. 

RELATED: Wave purchased by equity firm TPG for $2.36B, combined with RCN

Wave claims that it tried to renegotiate carriage terms with Comcast, but was rebuffed.

At one point, Wave said in its FCC complaint, it ended up paying Comcast a $3.5 million breach-of-contract charge because it was unable to meet minimum subscriber numbers for the RSNs. Wave said it now wants that money back. 

Notably, Wave was purchased in May by private equity firm TPG Capital for $2.36 billion. The private equity firm plans on combining Wave with its RCN operation. 

“Wave’s sale to RCN and a private-equity group is expected to close within a month, so NBCUniversal offered an extension until they come under new ownership and has separately offered marketplace terms to RCN for continued carriage on these systems thereafter,” Comcast said in a statement to the Seattle Times. “NBCUniversal has engaged with them fairly, on the same terms as other distributors.”