Connecticut Attorney General's Office

Press Release

Attorney General Asks FCC To Investigate Cablevision-MSNBC Exclusivity Deal

July 9, 2009

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal today asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to investigate an agreement giving Cablevision exclusive rights to MSNBC within areas served by its cable television systems.

The agreement means that potential Cablevision competitors, such as AT&T's U-verse, may not carry MSNBC in Cablevision service areas.

In a letter today to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, Blumenthal called the agreement anticompetitive and said it may violate federal law.

"I urge that the commission investigate this arrangement," Blumenthal said in the letter. "Pursuant to this exclusive carriage agreement, MSNBC may not make its programming available to competitive multichannel video providers within Cablevision's franchised service territory.

"As a result of this exclusive carriage agreement, AT&T Connecticut, which provides competitive U-Verse cable services throughout Connecticut, is unable to offer MSNBC to its customers within Cablevision's service territory. This exclusive carriage agreement unfairly limits these customers diversity of programming and significantly harms the development of competition in Connecticut's cable markets.

"The purpose of cable competition is to provide consumers with the broadest range of video service products at reasonable prices. Exclusive carriage agreements allow companies like Cablevision to exercise their powers of incumbency to monopolize prime programming choices, restrict access of their competitors and provide strong disincentives for some customers to switch their cable providers. As a result, these agreements harm the public interest because they limit the diversity of programming options and suppress capital investment in new competitive cable technologies."

Blumenthal said the MSNBC-Cablevision agreement may violate a federal law mandating FCC regulations that prohibit cable companies from coercing program providers into exclusivity agreements or retaliating against them for refusing to do so.

Cablevision operates cable systems serving the Norwalk, Bridgeport and Torrington areas.