Comcast deal could put NY1 in FiOS homes

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Alex Weprin

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Comcast’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable could be a boon for NY1, TWC’s beloved local cable news channel.

According to an open letter from Comcast executive V.P. David L. Cohen, cable channels owned by Time Warner Cable would be subject to the program access rules that resulted from Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal in 2011.

As a result, Comcast would be obligated to offer NY1, and the handful of other cable channels owned by TWC, to other pay-TV providers, including Verizon Fios, RCN and the satellite companies, at a fair rate.

"[Pay-TV providers] would have the right to include these programming networks in an arbitration demand in appropriate circumstances, and the acquired [Regional Sports Networks] would be subject to standalone arbitration as an alternative remedy to the FCC’s program access rules," Cohen wrote this morning.

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In other words: NY1 could become available to far more people than have access to it now, giving more viewers the chance to watch Pat Kiernan read from the papers each morning.

A spokesperson for Comcast confirmed that the program access rules would apply to NY1.

The TWC deal would give Comcast control of NY1 as well as WNBC and Telemundo channel 47 in New York. Comcast has promised to expand its public interest programming under the terms of the NBCUniversal deal, and under the proposed Time Warner Cable acquisition. Maintaining a robust local news and affairs channel such as NY1 could help its cause with regulators.

Update: In a statement, Senator Chuck Schumer confirms that NY1 is not in any danger.

"When I spoke to Comcast this morning, they said 3 things: While there are no hard commitments, they expect to increase Time Warner's cable operation here – just as they did when they acquired NBC – so I expect to see jobs grow; they confirmed they are going to keep NY1; and they confirmed they will honor Time Warner Cable’s commitment to growing jobs in Buffalo," Schumer wrote. "It seems that local jobs, as well as Pat’s 'In the Papers' segment, are not in danger.”

It isn’t clear whether the local cable channel, officially called Time Warner Cable News NY1, would return to its shorter, more memorable, name if the deal goes through and it becomes available to other pay-TV providers. It changed to its lengthier name late last year.

No changes are likely in the near future, as regulators still need to take a close look at the proposed acquisition.