Comcast loses discovery battle in $225M Viamedia suit

Ever wonder what happens if you don’t pay those pesky but hopefully well-earned franchise fees? Take a look.
A judge supported Viamedia's claim that Comcast’s monopoly of cable’s $5.4 billion local ad sales market had hurt its business.

Comcast has shifted its strategic focus to discovery in the $225 million local ad sales lawsuit filed against it by Viamedia, and it just came up short in yet another ruling.

The Illinois federal judge overseeing the case, Amy St. Eve, rejected Comcast’s motion to subpoena two groups of documents that Viamedia said were mistakingly submitted to companies specializing in litigation financing and the Justice Department. 

Both groups of documents had been improperly categorized by lawyers for the local ad sales company.

“While Viamedia should have taken greater care in preparing its privilege logs, the court will not impose the harsh sanction of waiver based on Viamedia’s conduct, particularly because of the large number of documents involved in this case and, significantly, because the court cannot conclude that defendants were unfairly prejudiced,” the judge said in her ruling.

Viamedia representatives wouldn't comment for FierceCable. Comcast reps didn’t immediately respond.

As highlighted by Law 360 (reg. req.), Comcast was unable to get the suit tossed, with Judge St. Eve trimming the case back in February but supporting the sustainability of Viamedia’s essential claim—that Comcast’s monopoly of cable’s $5.4 billion local ad sales market had hurt its business.

RELATED: Comcast gets only a portion of Viamedia’s $225M local ad monopoly suit tossed

Unable to get the suit tossed, Comcast has turned its focus to discovery, Law 360 explained. 

Viamedia filed suit against Comcast in May 2016 in the Northern District of Illinois federal court, accusing Comcast’s local ad sales unit, Spotlight, of shutting out rivals from interconnects it controls.

Viamedia claims Comcast excluded its clients, WideOpenWest (WOW!) and RCN, from accessing local ad sales “interconnects” in Chicago and Detroit. In order to obtain access to these interconnects, these MSOs had to agree to let Comcast Spotlight broker their spot ad sales. 

In its suit, Viamedia said WOW! and RCN “capitulated to Comcast’s demands and retained Comcast Spotlight as their sole spot cable advertising representative in the Detroit and Chicago DMAs.”

In November 2015, the Justice Department launched an investigation against Comcast, looking at very much the same allegations. The DOJ hasn't revealed where that investigation stands. The Justice Department estimated the size of cable’s local ad sales business to be worth more than $5 billion at that time.