The U.S. Department of Justice filed a major lawsuit today alleging that AT&T and DirecTV colluded in an illegal plot that kept the Los Angeles Dodgers off the air for many fans in their home market, The Washington Post reports.
“The anti-collusion suit alleges that DirecTV — and its corporate parent, AT&T — shared private negotiating information in 2014 with other TV providers, including Cox Communications and Charter Communications, to gain a collective advantage over Time Warner Cable, which was selling licenses to air the Dodgers Channel on other networks,” the story reports. “By simultaneously agreeing not to carry the channel, each TV provider could breathe easier knowing their customers would not be able to switch to a provider that did carry live Dodgers games, according to the suit.”
The report adds: “Evidence reviewed by the Justice Department allegedly showed DirecTV’s chief content officer, Daniel York, intentionally trading information with Cox and Charter in an attempt to drive down the price that the TV providers would need to pay to carry the channel on their networks.
“Internal communications between DirecTV executives showed chief executive Mike White understood the implications of a pact, saying the companies “may have more leverage if we all stick together,” according to the suit. To this day, the Dodgers Channel is still unavailable on AT&T, DirecTV and Cox.”
AT&T acquired DirecTV last year for $49 billion, with the acquisition creating the largest pay-TV provider in the country.
AT&T released a statement today saying carriage decisions are made independently and the negotiations at issue happened before the company acquired DirecTV.
The AT&T statement adds: “No other major TV provider chose to carry this content,” because “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.”