(Adds Department of Justice comment, paragraph 10)
By Diane Bartz
WASHINGTON, March 23 The Justice Department
reached a settlement with AT&T unit DirecTV, which it had
accused of illegally swapping information with rival pay-TV
providers about negotiations to show Los Angeles Dodgers
baseball games in southern California, according to court
filings on Thursday.
The government said in a complaint last year that because of
the information swaps, most Los Angeles residents were unable to
watch the Dodgers games on television for the past three years.
The settlement does not require any pay-TV company to carry
the Dodgers channel but does require DirecTV to refrain from
swapping competitively sensitive information with rivals,
according to a court filing.
Under the settlement, the companies must also monitor some
communications that their executives have with competitors and
to implement compliance programs.
"We are pleased to have resolved this matter to the
satisfaction of all parties," said AT&T spokesman Michael
Balmoris in an email.
AT&T is undergoing an antitrust review of its planned
purchase of Time Warner Inc. The Justice Department is
scrutinizing the deal, which President Donald Trump has
The Justice Department filed a lawsuit in November 2016
which accused a DirecTV executive of assuring executives at Cox,
Charter Communications and AT&T in 2014 that DirecTV had no
plans to strike a deal with the Dodgers' station to show their
In the end, all of the companies refused to carry the
SportsNet LA channel, a partnership between the Dodgers baseball
team and Time Warner Cable created in 2013, contending that it
was too pricey.
Since none of the companies showed the games, they did not
risk losing subscribers to a rival that did.
The "settlement promotes competition among pay-television
providers and prevents AT&T and DIRECTV from engaging in illegal
conduct that thwarts the competitive process," said acting
Assistant Attorney General Brent Snyder of the Justice
The purported collusion took place before AT&T bought
DirecTV in 2015 and Charter purchased Time Warner Cable in 2016.
The fight illustrates the importance of live sports to
pay-TV, which is seeing a dwindling number of subscribers even
as sports programming costs rise.
Among other evidence, the complaint cited then DirecTV CEO
Mike White's public comments in a May 2014 industry conference
that it was important that "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."
(Reporting by Diane Bartz; editing by Grant McCool)