AT&T, DOJ Settle Dodgers Suit

DOJ says it has agreed not to share confidential info with competitors going forward
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The Department of Justice has reached a settlement with DirecTV parent AT&T in which it agreed not to share "confidential, forward-looking information with competitors."

The antitrust division filed suit Nov. 2 and alleged that DirecTV was the lead entity in "information exchanges" with competitors — Cox, Charter and AT&T — during negotiations for Time Warner Cable-owned SportsNet LA and its Dodgers games.

The agreement stipulates that "when DirecTV and AT&T negotiate with providers of video programming, including negotiations to telecast the Dodgers Channel, they will not illegally share competitively sensitive information with their rivals."

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There will also be mandatory monitoring — by the companies, not the government — of communications between programming execs and rival companies, as well as compliance programs and "antitrust training."

“We are pleased to have resolved this matter to the satisfaction of all parties," said an AT&T spokesperson.

Time Warner Cable launched SportsNet LA, which airs Dodgers' games, in February 2014. But a number of distributors complained about the price — some reports put it as high as $4 per sub per month — especially when combined with three other RSNs in the market (Prime Ticket, Fox Sports LA and Time Warner Cable SportsNet) and thus aren't carrying it.

Charter in June 2015 agreed to launch SportsNet LA, only after it had done a deal to acquire Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, a merger that closed a year later.

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The lawsuit alleged that DirecTV "unlawfully exchanged competitively-sensitive information with Cox, Charter and AT&T during the companies’ negotiations for the right to telecast the Dodgers Channel," as well as future plans to carry the channel — or not carry it. The complaint alleged that information "was a material factor in the companies’ decisions not to carry the Dodgers Channel,” and pointed out that the Dodgers Channel “is still not carried by DirecTV, Cox or AT&T."

“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 Antitrust Division. “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.”

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