Woman Bites MSO
11:35 AM -- Here we go again. A woman in Stockton, Calif., has thrown the book at Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), claiming the MSO is violating antitrust laws because she’s required to rent a digital box in order to obtain HBO and other premium services.
Sound familiar? It might.
In August, Kansas City, Mo., resident Matthew Meeds filed suit against Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) over similar allegations. (See Man Bites MSO .)
In the latest case, attorneys for Stockton resident Cheryl Corralejo want to turn this into a class action lawsuit on behalf of Comcast subs throughout California, according to the local report. Comcast has 30 days to respond to the lawsuit.
The suit appears as Comcast and other operators continue to reclaim analog spectrum by migrating some channels to the digital domain. Until retail-ready tru2way boxes and digital TVs become widespread, most customers must lease boxes directly from their local cable operators. Comcast, however, intends to give away boxes in certain situations where it’s going “all digital.” (See Comcast Seeds Digital Shift With Free Boxes.)
Given cable’s commitment to tru2way and the development of a retail model for digital set-tops, it’s difficult to see how these antitrust arguments can sway a judge or jury. (See Revealed: The Tru2way MOU.) Besides, a retail market for these boxes is a primary aim of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) separable security mandate that went into effect last July. (See Countdown to 'Seven-Oh-Seven'.) So, hasn’t this train already left the station?
Then again, this cable we’re talking about -- some just can’t resist poking the industry in the eye whenever the opportunity arises.
And, as we’ve said before, if these cases against Comcast and Time Warner are successful, doesn’t it put everyone else who requires customers to lease boxes to access premium services on notice? Shouldn’t that same target be applied to the backs of DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV), Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH), Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), et al?
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News