According to a lawsuit filed on Wednesday by the U.S. Justice Department against AT&T’s DirecTV, the department has alleged that DirecTV has acted as a ringleader to illegally trade information with competing pay-TV providers about negotiations over showing Dodgers baseball games in Los Angeles.
The lawsuit claims that DirecTV exchanged confidential information with both Charter Communications and Cox Communications, and AT&T, to get leverage against Time Warner Cable, the company that distributes a channel that shows Dodgers games in the Los Angeles area. This took place in 2015 before AT&T acquired the company.
Time Warner Cable has a partnership with Dodgers baseball and carries the SportsNet LA channel, while the others refused to carry it as the fees were too high.
According to the Justice Department, much of Los Angeles was unable to watch the Dodgers play for the past three seasons.
In its complaint, the Justice Department claims that a DirecTV executive assured executives at the other three companies that DirecTV had no plans to strike a deal to show the Dodgers. At the same time, Cox, Charter and AT&T made the same promises.
The complaint says that as a result, the companies knew that they would not lose subscribers to competitors if all of them refused to air the Dodgers channel.
The complaint cited then DirecTV CEO Mike White’s public comments in a May 2014 when he sid, that “the distributors start to stand together, like most of us have been doing in Los Angeles for the first time ever, by the way, with the Dodgers on outrageous increases and excesses.”
“Dodgers fans were denied a fair competitive process when DirecTV orchestrated a series of information exchanges with direct competitors that ultimately made consumers less likely to be able to watch their hometown team,” commented Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Sallet of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.
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