Primetime 24 Ordered to Stop Distributing CBS and FOX Network Signals to More Than One Million Dish Owners
Last Friday, a U.S. District Judge in Miami issued a preliminary injunction that will require PrimeTime 24 and its affiliated satellite distributors (including DirecTV and large dish C-Band distributors) to turn off Prime 24's CBS and FOX network signals for approximately 1 million existing satellite subscribers. The injunction prohibits the satellite delivery of PrimeTime 24's CBS and FOX signals to subscribers who live in areas where the local CBS or FOX broadcast signals are available over-the-air. The restricted areas are determined from maps showing the Grade B contours of the local network affiliate. The injunction applies to new subscribers immediately. The Court gave PrimeTime 24 and the distributors 90 days to bring existing subscribers into compliance, starting from March 1997. The Court also required PrimeTime 24 and the distributors to insure that new dish subscribers were not subscribing to cable in the 90 days prior to obtaining the network signals by satellite. PrimeTime 24 estimated that approximately 1 million of its subscribers that have signed up for service since March 1997 will have their CBS and FOX signals turned off as a result of the Order.
The Order does not apply to those satellite subscribers who began receiving PrimeTime 24's network programming before March of 1997 or who receive PrimeTime 24's ABC and NBC signals. (ABC and NBC have separate cases against PrimeTime 24 that are pending.) The Order is specific to PrimeTime 24's service and thus does not apply to those satellite subscribers who receive their network signals from Netlink or PrimeStar. Netlink and PrimeStar reached agreement with the broadcasters this spring implementing a "red-light, green-light" system that permits the sale of network programming in pre-cleared zip codes.
It is expected that PrimeTime 24 will immediately appeal this Order to the Eleventh Circuit. In addition, NRTC, which includes a large group of cooperatives and other entities distributing C-band and DBS programming services, filed an Emergency Petition for Rulemaking asking the FCC to redefine the extent of a local affiliates' Grade B contour so as to expand the selling area for satellite subscriptions beyond that permitted in the Miami Order.
If you have any questions or would like a copy of the Court's 5 page Order (the 20 page decision is under seal), please contact us.