After years of Dodgers bloggers being harassed without any end in sight — as people berated us every time words like “TV,” “Dodgers,” and “watch” were uttered in any order — the government has finally stepped in to do something about it. Yes folks, it’s really happening, as the Department of Justice is suing AT&T for allegedly colluding to keep SportsNet LA off your television sets.
With this lawsuit, hopefully it ends the unceasing waves of Dodger fans angrily tweeting at bloggers like us about why we personally aren’t signing off on these deals that are worth probably hundreds of millions of dollars, as if we each individually went to their residence and stabbed SportsNet LA to death in front of them while laughing manically about how they’ll never hear Vin Scully again or something.
But now … now our nightmare is hopefully coming to an end.
Finally … FREEDOM!
Jokes aside, this is a serious thing and could provide a solution and explanation for the lack of Dodgers baseball on Los Angeles television sets in recent years. Yesterday, the DOJ filed a civil anti-trust lawsuit against AT&T (and thus, DirecTV) because they allegedly colluded with competitors to ensure SportsNet LA was never carried anywhere but on Time Warner Cable.
In an extraordinary legal move Wednesday , the Justice Department filed a 57-page lawsuit in federal court in Los Angeles, accusing DirecTV, which is now owned by AT&T, of conspiring with Cox Communications, Charter Communications and AT&T to refuse to carry the channel, SportsNet LA.
The lawsuit alleges that the four companies engaged in illegal conduct, sharing nonpublic information among themselves to gain leverage in negotiations with Time Warner Cable, which was responsible for recruiting other pay-TV companies to carry the sports channel.
“The sharing of this competitively sensitive information among direct competitors made it less likely that any of these companies would reach a deal because they no longer had to fear that a decision to refrain from carriage would result in subscribers switching to a competitor that offered the channel,” the Justice Department lawsuit said.
At one point, DirecTV’s former chief executive, Mike White, emailed Daniel York, the company’s chief content officer, that he believed the distributors “may have more leverage if we all stick together,” according to the lawsuit. York agreed, saying “others holding firm is key.”
This lawsuit doesn’t guarantee anything gets changed, but it comes at a time where AT&T has a pending $85.4-billion purchase of Time Warner Inc. that needs the DOJ’s approval. Thus, it would seem like AT&T would prefer to get this sorted with the DOJ sooner than later, which could lead to a settlement that includes an agreement that DirecTV would begin carrying SportsNet LA.
It’s hope at least.
For their part, AT&T released a statement, basically saying that they disagree with the lawsuit (shocking).
“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. 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.”
Providers not wanting to raise prices on customers out of concern for us? Sure, buddy.
In making its case, the lawsuit also cites issues in the TWC launch of the Lakers-dominant TWC SportsNet regional network and how DirecTV initially declined to carry it because of a high asking price. DirecTV finally added it three days before the Lakers 2012-13 season started after competitor Charter signed on.
“DirecTV rolled the dice during the Laker Channel negotiations but lost because TWC was able to pursue a divide-and-conquer strategy by offering DirecTV’s smaller competitors financial incentives to sign a deal early in the negotiation process.”
The Dodgers also released a statement, sounding unsurprised but hopeful.
“The allegations against DirecTV in today’s complaint by the U.S. Justice Department are shocking but not surprising. We hope today’s action leads to all Dodger fans finally being able to view all Dodger games everywhere in the market.”
Anyway, the sooner this gets resolved the better, just like it always has been. The main difference being that now there’s a clear hope something will end up getting done.