Byron Allen, Comcast Settle Racial Discrimination Lawsuit

Despite a previous setback ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, litigants in the case involving Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios Networks and Comcast June 11 announced they have made nice, entering into a content carriage arrangement that extends and amends terms for The Weather Channel and 14 broadcast television stations.

The companies announced that pending litigation between the two organizations has been withdrawn. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

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Allen and the National Association of African-American Owned Media in 2015 alleged Comcast worked to keep black-owned media networks off its platform. The Court in March ruled unanimously to send the case back to the appellate level, arguing Allen needed to better prove bias on behalf of Comcast.

The new carriage deal includes distribution of Comedy.TV, Recipe.TV and JusticeCentral.TV on X1 and video on demand and TV everywhere rights for those networks. Comcast will also launch the free ad-supported digital app, Local Now, on the Xfinity X1 and Flex platforms, and Xfinity customers who receive The Weather Channel will have access in the coming months to its weloveweather.tv website and app on an authenticated basis.

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“We’re excited to begin a new phase of partnership with Comcast and Xfinity, including the distribution of our cable channels for the first time on Xfinity platforms,” Allen said in a statement.

Bec Heap, SVP of video and entertainment at Comcast Cable, said the pay-TV operator was pleased to move past litigation and iron out a mutually beneficial deal.

“We are pleased to have reached this multifaceted agreement that continues our long relationship with The Weather Channel while bringing Xfinity customers additional content,” We look forward to an ongoing partnership,” Heap said.

Comcast corporate earlier this week pledged $100 million to assist minority-based businesses and social justice organizations.

Allen’s separate litigation against Spectrum continues.

U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Byron Allen’s $20 Billion Racial Discrimination Lawsuit Against Comcast

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a $20 billion racial discrimination lawsuit filed by Byron Allen, CEO of Entertainment Studio and owner of The Weather Channel, against Comcast Cable.

Allen also co-owns with Sinclair Broadcast Group 21 regional sports networks acquired from Disney following its purchase of 20th Century Fox.

The suit, filed in 2015 by Allen and the National Association of African American Owned Media, alleged Comcast worked to keep black-owned media networks off its platform.

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The suit was dismissed in federal court and then overturned last November by the Ninth Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

Comcast, which appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court, denies it has engaged in a discriminatory manner, saying it carries more than 100 networks targeting diverse audiences.

“We believe the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision was incorrectly decided,” Comcast said in a statement. “At this stage, the case is about a technical point of law that was decided in a novel way by the Ninth Circuit. We hope the Supreme Court will reverse the Ninth Circuit’s unusual interpretation of the law and bring this case to an end.”

Allen said Comcast upped its content diversity only after his litigation.

“This case is not about African American-themed programming, but is about African American ownership of networks,” said Allen. “Unfortunately, the networks Comcast refers to as ‘African American-owned’ are not wholly-owned by African Americans and did not get any carriage until I stood up and spoke out about this discrimination and economic exclusion.”

Disney Offloads 21 Fox Regional Sports Networks to Sinclair

The Walt Disney Co. and Sinclair Broadcast Group have entered into a definitive agreement under which Sinclair is paying $9.6 billion to acquire equity stakes in 21 regional sports networks and “Fox College Sports,” which were acquired by Disney in its $71.3 billion acquisition of select 21stCentury Fox assets.

Completion of the transaction is subject to the approval of the U.S. Department of Justice, which had mandated Disney sell the RSNs.

The RSN portfolio, which excludes the New York Yankees’ YES Network, is the largest collection of RSNs, with a footprint that includes exclusive local rights to 42 professional teams consisting of 14 Major League Baseball teams, 16 National Basketball Association teams, and 12 National Hockey League teams.

In 2018, the RSNs generated a combined $3.8 billion in revenue across 74 million subscribers.

The RSNs will be managed under wholly-owned subsidiary of Sinclair, Diamond Sports Group LLC.

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Byron Allen, CEO of Entertainment Studios and owner of The Weather Channel, is an equity and content partner in Diamond Sports Group.

Byron Allen

Sinclair’s existing sports business consists of Marquee Sports Network (a joint venture with the Chicago Cubs), Tennis Channel and Tennis Media Company (dedicated to live tennis events and tennis lifestyle), Stadium (a joint venture focused on college sports and professional highlights), Ring of Honor Wrestling (professional wrestling), and high school sports programming (with Friday Night Rivals and Thursday Night Lights).

“While consumer viewing habits have shifted, the tradition of watching live sports and news remains ingrained in our culture,” Chris Ripley, CEO of Sinclair, said in a statement. “This acquisition is an extraordinary opportunity to diversify Sinclair’s content sources and revenue streams with high-quality assets that are driving live viewing. We also see this as an opportunity to realize cross-promotional collaboration, and synergistic benefits related to programming and production.”

“We are pleased to have reached this agreement with Sinclair for the sale of these 21 RSNs, subject to the conditions of the consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice,” said Disney CFO Christine McCarthy.

The RSNs include Fox Sports Arizona, Fox Sports Detroit, Fox Sports Florida, Fox Sports Sun, Fox Sports North, Fox Sports Wisconsin, Fox Sports Ohio, SportsTime Ohio, Fox Sports South, Fox Sports Carolina, Fox Sports Tennessee, Fox Sports Southeast, Fox Sports Southwest, Fox Sports Oklahoma, Fox Sports New Orleans, Fox Sports Midwest, Fox Sports Kansas City, Fox Sports Indiana, Fox Sports San Diego, Fox Sports West, and Prime Ticket.

Byron Allen: Digital Revolution Evangelist

Media mogul Byron Allen has set his sights high.

Byron Allen greets the crowd at the OTT & Video Distribution Summit Aug. 2.

“I want to be the Rockefeller of the digital revolution,” he told the audience Aug. 2 at the OTT & Video Distribution Summit in Marina del Rey, Calif.

Just as John D. Rockefeller reached the pinnacle of success with oil in the Industrial Revolution, Allen plans to succeed with content in the digital revolution.

The OTT market is “in its infancy,” he said, and he is laying the groundwork to be a large player when it matures. The comedian-turned-CEO is positioning his company, Entertainment Studios, to be “Netflix on steroids,” Allen said.

In addition to a high-profile acquisition of The Weather Channel in March, Allen continues to create a series of channels on cable and satellite (Cars.TV, Comedy.TV, Pets.TV, etc.) to build his empire.

“I started buying all the premium .TVs,” he said. “I took all the beach front .TV real estate while everyone was focused on .com.”

He offered several anecdotes about hustling to build his company. For instance, he said he bought an old court set for $1 to use on JusticeCentral.TV by pointing out to the studio that it would cost thousands to tear it down.

One of the next things on his plate is Sports.TV, which will offer international games.

“The only reason why television is alive is because you have to go behind a paywall to get sports,” Allen said, adding “the true religion of the world is sports.”

Acknowledging his humble beginnings as the son of a teenaged mom in Detroit, Allen said, “I am the epitome of why America is so wonderful.”

He pointed out the opportunities are better than ever for the entertainment entrepreneur.

“[Fox mogul] Rupert Murdoch spent most of his career chasing global distribution,” he said. “With OTT, you have it at your fingertips.”