Soccer network beIN Sports goes dark on Comcast. Verizon Fios subscribers also could lose it.
BeIN Sports, which televises European soccer leagues, pulled its soccer games and other sports content on Wednesday from the Comcast Corp., the nation's biggest cable operator, after it failed to reach a new distribution agreement.
Even with a new European soccer season about to kick off, U.S. fans won't be watching Spain's La Liga and France's Ligue 1 games on Xfinity.
Or, perhaps, Verizon Fios.
BeIN Sports, which televises European soccer games, pulled its channels from Comcast Corp. early Wednesday morning after the two companies failed to agree to new terms for a distribution agreement, which includes subscriber fees. The prior agreement expired at midnight Tuesday.
Then, Verizon said Wednesday afternoon that its beIN Sports contract was expiring and the two sides were far apart on a deal. So, beIN Sports would likely be pulled from its systems in Philadelphia and other East Coast areas at midnight, Verizon spokesperson Raymond McConville said.
BeIN didn't not immediately respond for comment on Verizon.
The timing couldn't be worse for beIN Sports.
Spain's La Liga — which draws an average U.S. television audience of 250,000 viewers, according to Christopher Harris, editor of worldsoccertalk.com — begins its season in about two weeks. La Liga is beIN Sports's top soccer property in the United States. BeIN televises European soccer on English- and Spanish-language channels.
"Now is the time to strike and gain some leverage over carriage fees," Harris said of Comcast and Verizon. They can make beIN sweat over this main source of revenue for cable channels.
Comcast and Verizon said that beIN was seeking significant hikes in the subscriber fees. These fees are charged to Comcast and Verizon for beIN Sports channels and passed to consumers through monthly bills.
Wednesday's dispute continues bad feelings between Comcast and beIN.
"The truth is, we face a disheartening trend of media consolidation, where the big get bigger and innovative brands like ours that serve diverse audiences get pushed out," Antonio Briceno, head of beIN Sports in the United States and Canada, said on Wednesday.
Qatar-owned beIN Sports, which has spent billions globally on television rights for European soccer, filed a complaint earlier this year with the Federal Communications Commission, claiming that Comcast was seeking to quash the six-year-old network so that Comcast can boost ratings for its NBC Sports Network, which televises the heavily marketed English Premier League.
Comcast has denied the allegations in the FCC complaint and said on Wednesday that beIN was seeking unreasonable terms for soccer games and other sports content that most of its subscribers don't watch. Comcast carries the beIN English- and Spanish-language channels in either a sports package or a broadly distributed package, based on the city.
"We are disappointed that beIN Sports has chosen not to come to an agreement, and we now no longer have the rights to carry the networks," Comcast said on Wednesday.
Comcast said that it offered to carry beIN networks on "reasonable renewal terms" but that beIN rejected the proposal.