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Time Warner Cable Withholds Metro Sports from Google Fiber Service in Kansas City

Time Warner has “backtracked from any willingness” to license its Metro Sports regional network, covering Kansas City regional sports, for use in the Google Fiber launch of cable television and ultra-high speed internet in the area. According to a Multichannel News report, the area’s major cable television provider is “leveraging its control over a local RSN (regional sports network) to impede Google Fiber’s entry into the marketplace.”

Here are more details from Multichannel News:

Asked for a response, Time Warner Cable reps referred to the MSO’s statement on the issue last fall. In September, after a previous complaint by Google, the cable company said, “TWC has absolutely offered, and continues to offer, what the FCC describes as Metro Sports’ ‘must-have’ live regional sports programming — men’s and women’s Division I basketball — at fair and reasonable prices. As for the remaining programming on Metro Sports, we have long invested in local programming, and [Google is] welcome to do the same.”

Initially the cable operator “signaled a willingness to contract with Google Fiber for access to the Metro Sports network,” according to Google. “Ultimately, however, after delaying negotiations for months, TWC backtracked from any willingness to license its Metro Sports channel to Google Fiber.”

Google said that by contrast, it had successfully negotiated a license agreement with Fox Networks for its regional sports programming, including the Fox Sports Kansas City RSN.

“Because Google Fiber’s experience confirms the Commission’s understanding of lingering market conditions, Google Fiber supports the Commission’s proposals to strengthen the program access rules pertaining to RSNs,” the company said in the FCC filing.

In October 2012, the FCC voted to sunset the ban on exclusive contracts between pay TV providers and co-owned programming networks. Program access complaints will now be handled under the existing prohibition on unfair practices.

The FCC said in the order that “the potential for anticompetitive conduct resulting from vertical integration between cable operators and programmers remains a concern,” particularly with respect to RSNs, Google noted. Its comments are available here: http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7022104414.

Programming on Metro Sports includes regional NCAA Division I college football and basketball games, as well as local high school football and basketball games and coaches shows. The RSN is available on TWC, Comcast and Knology of Kansas (formerly Sunflower Broadband) systems.

The Kansas City area follows closely the basketball teams of the University of Kansas and Kansas State, and not being able to see those games could be a dealbreaker for potential Google Fiber users. More on this story as it develops at the TV, Internet and Phone Blog.

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