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DirecTV, AT&T Settle Antitrust Suit Over Dodgers Channel Carriage

Variety logo Variety 3/23/2017 Ted Johnson
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AT&T’s DirecTV has settled an antitrust lawsuit brought by the Department of Justice, claiming that it illegally shared confidential information with competitors as they negotiated for carriage of the Dodgers Channel.

The Department of Justice said on Thursday that under the terms of the settlement, DirecTV and AT&T agreed to not share “competitively sensitive information” with their rivals when negotiating for carriage.  According to the DOJ, the settlement requires the companies to “monitor certain communications their programming executives have with their rivals, and to implement antitrust training and compliance programs.”

The lawsuit stems from Time Warner Cable’s launch in 2014 of SportsNet LA, after the cabler acquired exclusive rights to Dodgers games for 25 years. But it was unable to reach a deal for carriage with many other satellite and cable providers in the Los Angeles area, initially leaving about 70% of the region without access to the games.

Charter Communications acquired Time Warner Cable in 2016, but carriage of the channel is still not available in a big chunk of the region, including on DirecTV. The settlement will not change that status.

According to the the Justice Department complaint, DirecTV’s chief content officer exchanged otherwise classified information with counterparts at Cox, Charter and AT&T while they were negotiating for the rights.

“The companies engaged in these unlawful information exchanges to decrease the risk that any individual company would lose subscribers by not carrying the Dodgers Channel while others did,” the Justice Department said. “Eliminating this threat corrupted the competitive bargaining process and likely contributed to the lengthy blackout.”

AT&T is in the midst of seeking Justice Department approval for its proposed acquisition of Time Warner.

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