Time Warner Ordered to Carry Sports Network

Posted January 21, 2008 2:21 p.m. EST
Updated January 21, 2008 5:44 p.m. EST

— An arbitrator has ordered Time Warner Cable to offer a regional sports network that carries Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals baseball games to all of its cable subscribers in North Carolina.

The ruling was a "resounding victory" for Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, spokesman Todd Webster said Monday. MASN and its parent, TCR Sports Broadcasting, waged a high-profile battle with Time Warner for months to get the network onto the cable system's basic tier of service so the programming could be seen by more people. MASN carried four East Carolina football games in the 2007 season.

Time Warner has maintained that it would be unfair to impose the cost of acquiring MASN programming on all customers because interest in the games is low. Instead, the company offered to carry MASN on a digital channel.

In addition to Orioles and Nationals games, the network carries more than 200 football, basketball and lacrosse games involving North Carolina universities, officials have said.

Jerome Sussman, an arbitrator appointed by the Federal Communications Commission, ruled that Time Warner offers its own sports channel and other sports networks to a wider audience than the one it offered to MASN. He said the company had "both motive and opportunity to discriminate" against MASN, noting Time Warner could pick up the rights to the baseball games and other events now offered by the network if MASN were forced out of business.

“The conclusion that Time Warner deliberately discriminated against MASN is inescapable from the documents and testimony,” Sussman wrote in a five-page ruling. “All of (Time Warner's) efforts went into figuring out ways to avoid putting MASN on the air.”

Sussman is reviewing offers made by the two sides to put the network on the cable system and determine which represents a fair market value for the transaction.