Sky Angel U.S., LLC v. Discovery Communications, LLC, No. 16-2050 (4th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Rather than broadcasting in real time over satellite or cable, Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) stores programming on servers and delivers content digitally over a high-speed network. Sky received third-party content at its satellite substation, transcoded it, and transmitted it to NeuLion’s servers via a private line. NeuLion sent the encoded signals over the public internet to subscribers’ set-top boxes, relying on third-party internet connections. Sky wanted Discovery programming. Sky stated it would not transmit Discovery content over the public internet. Discovery’s engineer advised that while it was possible to use a closed fiber-optic network, he had “concerns that it may be going over the Internet” which could present “rights issues.” The final agreement described "a multichannel video distribution system which utilizes Internet Protocol (IP) technology to deliver video programming services over a closed and encrypted transmission path over a national fiber-optic network to a central location for subsequent distribution of such video programming services with proprietary encoding over a high-speed data connection to set-top-boxes that are secured by industry-standard encryption and conditional access technologies and are connected to Subscribers’ television sets." Discovery terminated the contract after learning Sky used the “public internet.” The court held the agreement was susceptible to competing reasonable interpretations concerning the scope of Sky’s distribution rights, examined extrinsic evidence, and found no support for Sky’s claim that the contract permitted public internet distribution. The Fourth Circuit affirmed. The contract allowed Discovery to terminate at any time it became dissatisfied with Sky ’s method of distribution; Discovery did not act in bad faith.