Ice Cube’s Big3 Networks asks FCC to investigate Charter on charges of undermining sale

Charter’s alleged conduct risks effectively excluding Big3 from the bidding process and tainting the auction, a report says.

Charter’s alleged conduct risks effectively excluding Big3 from the bidding process and tainting the auction, a report says.

Ice Cube_TheGrio
Ice Cube performs during the BIG3 Championship at the Barclays Center on August 24, 2018 in Brooklyn, New York. (Photo by Adam Hunger/BIG3/Getty Images)

Big3 Networks, a bidder for 21 Fox regional sports networks, has filed a complaint with federal regulators, accusing Charter Communications of threatening to preemptively drop the sports network channels. The move would negatively impact the auction for those networks, according to Multichannel News.

Big3, the three-on-three professional basketball league founded by Ice Cube along with investor Jeffrey Kwatinetz, sent letters to the U.S. Dept. of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission this week, saying it had begun talks with Charter about potentially carrying the channels if Big3 is the winning bidder. Charter abruptly stopped talks and now Big3 is concerned this could hurt its chances of winning the bid, the report said.

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In the letters, Cube and Kwatinetz also point out that among the bidders for the 21 Fox regional sports networks is Liberty Media, one of Charter’s largest shareholders.

“Charter’s conduct raises serious questions regarding the integrity of the divestiture sale and whether Liberty may be using its controlling position over Charter to tilt the bidding process in its favor,” Cube and Kwatinetz wrote in Big3’s letter to the DOJ, reported Multichannel. “It has been suggested to Big3’s ownership that Charter has disseminated its threat to drop the RSNs to other members of the industry, thereby suppressing auction prices, chilling bidding, and ultimately hurting Disney’s ability to secure the best price for the RSNs.”

Big3 hopes that the letters open up the process and Cube and Kwatinetz are seeking “guidance and visibility into Charter’s business plans and assurances that Charter would not completely drop the RSNs, as it has indicated. Otherwise, Charter’s conduct risks effectively excluding Big3 from the bidding process and tainting the auction.”

Charter released a statement last week, in which it stated that it “currently has an agreement to carry these networks and welcomes the opportunity to discuss a future carriage agreement for these networks with whomever ultimately owns them including Big3. Regardless of who owns the programming, we approach all negotiations with the same singular objective of reaching carriage agreements that best meet the needs of our customers.”

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Cube isn’t buying the okie doke.

“The Big3 is not part of the old boys club and that doesn’t sit well with a company like Charter, which has been called out many times for unfair treatment of minority organizations and for consistent disregard of its own customers,” Ice Cube said in a statement released last week, according to Multichannel.

Turns out Cube has a point—and he’s not the only Black who has accused Charter of discrimination.

In 2016, Entertainment Studios Networks founder, chairman, and CEO Byron Allen filed a $10 billion discrimination suit against Charter, alleging the company failed to give minority-owned firms the same opportunities that it presented to White-owned firms. That lawsuit is still pending.