By Ted Johnson, Deadline – June 11, 2020 – Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios Networks and Comcast have reached a settlement and carriage agreement for a series of channels.
Allen’s racial bias case against Comcast went all the way to the Supreme Court, but in March, the justices ruled unanimously that he had to meet a higher threshold for his case to proceed in the lower court.
The new agreement extends terms for the The Weather Channel and 14 broadcast television stations.
Also included in the deal are distribution agreements for Entertainment Studios’ Comedy.TV, Recipe.TV and JusticeCentral.TV on Comcast’s X1 platform, including video-on-demand and TV everywhere rights.
Comcast also will launch a free, ad-supported digital app, Local NOW, on the Xfinity X1 and Flex platforms. Comcast Xfinity customers who receive The Weather Channel will have access to the weloveweather.tv website and app in the coming months.
Allen, the founder, chairman and CEO of Entertainment Studios, said in a statement, “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.”
The financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
“We are pleased to have reached this multifaceted agreement that continues our long relationship with The Weather Channel while bringing Xfinity customers additional content,” said Bec Heap, senior vice president, video and entertainment at Comcast Cable. “We look forward to an ongoing partnership.”
Allen’s litigation was withdrawn late Wednesday in a joint stipulation signed by his attorney, Louis R. “Skip” Miller of Miller Barondess, and Comcast’s counsel, Miguel Estrada of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.
Allen filed his claim against Comcast and other multichannel providers in 2015, arguing that his channels were denied access to their lineups because of his race.
Allen’s company bought the Weather Channel in 2018 and purchased the stations in two separate deals last year.
At issue before the Supreme Court was whether Allen’s $20 billion lawsuit should have survived beyond the pleading stage by merely proving that, in Comcast’s decision to deny carriage of his Entertainment Studios’ channels, his race was a “motivating factor” or whether it was the sole cause, also known as “but for” in legalese. The ruling was viewed as having a potentially significant impact on future racial discrimination cases.
The justices, in a unanimous decision, ruled that to prevail, “a plaintiff must initially plead and ultimately prove that, but for race, it would not have suffered the loss of a legally protected right,” according to the opinion.
The decision means that Allen’s lawsuit will go back to the lower court, where he can again try to prove his case, but he will have a much greater threshold to meet for his case to survive.
At issue was whether Allen’s $20 billion lawsuit should have survived beyond the pleading stage by merely proving that, in Comcast’s decision to deny carriage of his Entertainment Studios’ channels, his race was a “motivating factor” or whether it was the sole cause, also known as “but for” in legalese. The ruling was viewed as having a potentially significant impact on future racial discrimination cases.
The Ninth Circuit had ruled in favor of Allen last year, but in oral arguments before the Supreme Court some of the justices found fault with the lower court’s reasoning. The justices showed clear skepticism of issuing a definitive ruling that established a lower threshold in racial discrimination cases when a case is first filed, and a higher one if it reaches a trial.