CBS, Disney Fear Comcast Merger Could Reveal What They're Paid for Programming

Ask Courts to Stop FCC From Disclosing Programming Contracts

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Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes on CBS's 'Elementary.'
Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes on CBS's 'Elementary.' Credit: Patrick Harbron/CBS

CBS Corp. and Walt Disney Co. are among companies seeking a court order to stop the Federal Communications Commission from disclosing programming contracts as part of its review of Comcast's proposed purchase of Time Warner Cable.

Some programmers oppose the deal partly because they fear it will give the combined Comcast-Time Warner Cable too much clout in negotiations over how much to pay for programming from CBS and others. Such retransmission talks are a major flash point in the struggle over who pays for content and rising pay-TV bills. But even the deal's approval process, it seems, now threaten to undermine the programmers' position in such retransmission talks.

The companies will suffer "substantial harm" if distribution agreements are disclosed, lawyers for media companies wrote yesterday in a request for an order in the U.S. appeals court in Washington blocking release of the information.

"The FCC repeatedly has recognized that distribution agreements are entitled to the highest level of confidential treatment," the companies said in the filing.

Comcast, the largest U.S. cable-TV company, proposed buying No. 2 Time Warner Cable for $45.2 billion in February.

The request also applies to a plan by AT&T, the largest U.S. telephone company by revenue, to buy satellite TV provider DirecTV for $48.5 billion.

Other companies seeking the court order include Scripps Networks Interactive, Univision Communications, 21st Century Fox and Viacom.

Kim Hart, a spokeswoman for the FCC, didn't immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment on the filing.

~ Bloomberg News ~

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