The Justice Department said it has reached a settlement agreement with AT&T over a federal lawsuit alleging DirecTV colluded with rival pay-TV operators to freeze out a Time Warner Cable-owned regional sports network.
No monetary payment was announced, but the DOJ said AT&T agreed it will not share program licensing information with competitors in the future and will also self-monitor.
The agreement does not, however, stipulate that DirecTV, the No. 2 pay-TV operator in the Southern California region, carry SportsNet LA, the exclusive local TV home of the Major League Baseball’s L.A. Dodgers.
“When competitors email, text, or otherwise share confidential and strategically sensitive information with each other to avoid competing, consumers lose,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brent Snyder of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, in a statement. “Today’s settlement promotes competition among pay-television providers and prevents AT&T and DirecTV from engaging in illegal conduct that thwarts the competitive process.”
TWC signed a 25-year, $8.5 billion program licensing deal with the Dodgers in January 2013 and launched TWC SportsNet LA in March 2014. Today, Charter Communications—the company that bought TWC in 2015—is the only major pay-TV operator in the SoCal region to carry the channel.
The RSN is entering its fourth MLB season distributed in less than half of Los Angeles-area homes.
The action relating to the DOJ’s suit occurred in the run-up to SportsNet LA’s 2014 launch, before Charter acquired TWC, or AT&T bought DirecTV.
DirecTV had recently—and reluctantly—paid a hefty carriage fee for another, similarly-monikered TWC regional sports channel, SportsNet, which was built around a 20-year, $3 billion deal with the NBA’s L.A. Lakers.
Led by its chief content officer, Dan York, DirecTV was determined not to be forced to succumb to market pressures, the DOJ alleged. The agency said York and his team colluded with program negotiators at Charter, Cox Communications and AT&T U-verse, forming a united front of opposition to TWC’s efforts to distribute the channel.