Oceanic Time Warner Cable’s exclusive hold on University of Hawaii sports could become threatened by a confluence of events this month, analysts said Monday.
This season Oceanic takes over the UH sports contract that television station KFVE and its over-the-air antecedents have held for 28 years.
But the U.S. District Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.’s June 10 decision allowing the Federal Communications Commission to require regional sports networks to share programming with other video programming providers and last week’s licensing of Hawaiian Telcom for a 15-year cable franchise by the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs has the potential to pose a challenge for Oceanic.
The license would allow Hawaiian Telcom to offer video over its phone lines for Oahu customers.
“I would say Oceanic needs to be significantly concerned about the likelihood it might have to share UH programming with its competition, including Hawaiian Telcom, DirecTV and others,” said Jeff Portnoy, a Honolulu attorney who specializes in media issues for Cades Schutte.
Oceanic and UH officials referred questions to Oceanic President Bob Barlow, who was traveling and not immediately available for comment.
Hawaiian Telcom spokeswoman Ann Nishida Fry declined comment on the company’s possible plans or time frame for UH except to say, “Hawaiian Telcom is a longtime corporate supporter of the University of Hawaii, and we are well aware of the community’s passion for our Warriors, ’Bows and Wahine teams. We will share product and programming specifics of our TV service when the commercial introduction commences and as our rollout progresses.”
Brian Frederick, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Sports Fans Coalition, which has followed such cases and lobbied for shared programming, said rights holders have to be paid for making their content available to competitors.
UH is contracted to receive at least $2.3 million from Oceanic this season for its local and pay-per-view rights.
Should Hawaiian Telcom or another competitor seek Oceanic’s UH content, Frederick said, “My understanding is they would have to go to an arbitration process if they can’t come to a (financial) agreement.”
According to the Bureau of National Affairs, the D.C. federal appeals court decision “is a major victory for the phone companies and satellite TV providers long denied access to cable-owned local and regional sports programming.”
DirecTV has especially welcomed the ruling.
While the court decision was largely focused on pro sports, analysts said it is also applicable to college sports.
“At sportsfans.org, we’ve always stressed that sports programming should be made as available as possible to the consumer so that there is as much competition in the media as there is on the playing field,” Frederick said.