The U.S. Department of Justice and AT&T are reportedly close to settling a lawsuit over alleged antitrust violations committed by DirecTV in regard to regional sports network TWC SportsNet LA.
But according to the Los Angeles Times, which broke the news, the deal will not require AT&T to put the exclusive local TV channel for the Los Angeles Dodgers on DirecTV.
According to the report, AT&T wants to clear the decks with the DOJ so that new business—specifically, the wireless giant’s $85.4 billion bid to buy Time Warner Inc.—can proceed through its regulatory process.
The LA Times said a key settlement condition would be that AT&T control its program licensing negotiators more carefully, even monitoring their communications.
AT&T hasn’t commented on this.
SportsNet LA was launched 2014 by the erstwhile Time Warner Cable, before the MSO was purchased by Charter Communications, on the back of a 25-year, $8.4 billion deal with the Dodgers.
To date, the RSN has only one major carrier in the Los Angeles area, the TWC system, now branded as Spectrum and controlled by Charter, accounting for 40% of the market. This means that local baseball fans are about to start their fourth Dodgers season with local games not picked up nationally by ESPN, Turner Networks or FOX blacked out in more than half the Southern California region.
For its part, the region’s No. 2 pay-TV operator, DirecTV, and its top program licensing exec, Dan York, have been accused of colluding with other operators, to hold SportsNet LA at bay.
Two years earlier, TWC launched another SportsNet channel, built on a 20-year, $3 billion deal with the LA Lakers. According to DOJ narrative, DirecTV was forced to cave into TWC’s carriage demands after virtually every other operator in the Southern California region signed on for the Lakers RSN.
Unconvinced that interest in pro baseball matched TWC’s licensing demands, York and his team allegedly communicated with other operators, AT&T U-verse among them, to make sure they didn’t break ranks and sign a carriage deal for the Dodgers channel.