Comcast and Byron Allen settle long-running legal battle

Comedian and media mogul Byron Allen, in Los Angeles. (Chris Carlson/AP Photo)

Comedian and media mogul Byron Allen, in Los Angeles. (Chris Carlson/AP Photo)

This story originally appeared on Philadelphia Business Journal.

Comcast’s long legal battle with media executive Byron Allen is over.

Allen’s company, Entertainment Studio Networks, said Thursday it reached an agreement with the Philadelphia media giant to carry three of ESN’s channels, Comedy.TV, Recipe.TV and JusticeCentral.TV.

It also extended terms of an existing deal that allows Comcast to carry The Weather Channel, which ESN acquired in 2018, and 14 broadcast stations it purchased in February. Financial terms were not disclosed.

“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,” Allen said in a statement.

The deal brings an end to Allen’s ongoing lawsuit against Comcast, which claimed Comcast racially discriminated against the black-owned media company when it refused to carry ESN’s channels. The lawsuit, filed in 2015, sought $20 billion in damages.

While Allen’s lawsuit was originally dismissed in a lower court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision and allowed it to proceed. Comcast fought that reversal, arguing Allen had to prove at the beginning stages of the lawsuit that Comcast acted for no other reason than racial discrimination, before the case could progress into the discovery and trial stages. Allen’s company argued it only had to prove race was a motivating factor at that stage, not the sole cause.

The case reached the Supreme Court, drawing criticism from civil rights organizations that argued a decision against Allen would deal a weakening blow to civil rights protections.

The justices unanimously sided with Comcast in March, and sent the case back to the lower courts. After the decision, Comcast argued the ruling was narrow and would not negatively impact other civil rights cases.

“We are pleased the Supreme Court unanimously restored certainty on the standard to bring and prove civil rights claims. The well-established framework that has protected civil rights for decades continues,” Comcast said in a statement at the time. “The nation’s civil rights laws have not changed with this ruling; they remain the same as before the case was filed.”

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