DOJ sues DirecTV for leading conspiracy to keep Dodger games off the air in the LA area
The Department of Justice on Wednesday filed suit against DirecTV and its new owner AT&T for ‘acting as ringleader’ in a conspiracy to coordinate with three of its competitors in negotiations with SportsNet LA, which holds exclusive rights to telecast almost all Los Angeles Dodgers games in the LA area.
SportsNet LA is a regional sports network jointly owned and founded by the Dodgers and Time Warner Cable. TWC was then acquired by Charter Communications. After the acquisition, Charter began broadcasting the Dodger games.
The suit, filed in the US District Court for the Central District of California, alleges that DirecTV conspired with Cox Communications Inc., Charter Communications Inc. and AT&T to exchange information during negotiations. By doing so, they kept the games off of most consumer TV sets, allowing the companies to mitigate the loss of subscribers that might have ensued should one of the parties concluded a contract and started to broadcast the games, while the others were shut out.
“As the complaint explains, Dodgers fans were denied a fair competitive process when DIRECTV orchestrated a series of information exchanges with direct competitors that ultimately made consumers less likely to be able to watch their hometown team,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Sallet of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “Competition, not collusion, best serves consumers and that is especially true when, as with pay-television providers, consumers have only a handful of choices in the marketplace.”
“The allegations against DirecTV in today’s complaint by the U.S, Justice Department are shocking but not surprising,” said Stan Kasten, President and CEO of the Dodgers. “We hope today’s action leads to all Dodger fans finally being able to view all Dodger games everywhere in the market.”
AT&T disputes the DOJ’s allegations.
“We respect the DOJ’s important role in protecting consumers, but in this case, which occurred before AT&T’s acquisition of DIRECTV, we see the facts differently,” David McAtee, AT&T General Counsel, said in a statement. “The reason why no other major TV provider chose to carry this content was that no one wanted to force all of their customers to pay the inflated prices that Time Warner Cable was demanding for a channel devoted solely to LA Dodgers baseball. We make our carriage decisions independently, legally and only after thorough negotiations with the content owner. We look forward to presenting these facts in court.”