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AT&T The Courts Businesses Government Television The Almighty Buck

US Government Sues AT&T/DirecTV, Calls It 'Ringleader' of Collusion Scheme (arstechnica.com) 113

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Department of Justice today sued DirecTV and its owner, ATT, saying the satellite TV company colluded with competitors during contentious negotiations to broadcast Los Angeles Dodgers games. Dodgers games have been blacked out in much of Los Angeles because pay-TV providers have been unwilling to pay the price demanded by SportsNet LA, the Dodgers channel operated by the baseball franchise and Time Warner Cable. But the DOJ's antitrust division placed the blame for this situation on ATT and DirecTV. In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in California, it alleges that DirecTV was a "ringleader" in a coordinated scheme with cable companies Cox and Charter, according to a DOJ announcement. ATT completed its purchase of DirecTV in July 2015, but the complaint covers a dispute that began before the merger and continues to this day. The Dodgers channel owners offered carriage licenses to the pay-TV companies in January 2014, but the channel is still not available on DirecTV, Cox, or ATT's wireline TV service. (Games are now available on Charter, which purchased Time Warner Cable this year.) The lawsuit "alleges that DirecTV unlawfully exchanged competitively-sensitive information with Cox, Charter, and ATT during the companies' negotiations for the right to telecast the Dodgers Channel," the DOJ announcement said. "Specifically, the complaint alleges that DirecTV and each of these competitors agreed to and did exchange non-public information about their companies' ongoing negotiations to telecast the Dodgers Channel, as well as their companies' future plans to carry -- or not carry -- the channel." The companies used this strategy "to obtain bargaining leverage and to reduce the risk that they would lose subscribers if they decided not to carry the channel but a competitor chose to do so." The information these companies learned from each other "through these unlawful agreements" was a major factor in their decision not to carry the Dodgers channel, the complaint said. ATT said it will fight the lawsuit and blamed Time Warner Cable for charging unreasonably high prices. The asking price was reportedly about $5 a month per subscriber regardless of how many people watch the games.
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US Government Sues AT&T/DirecTV, Calls It 'Ringleader' of Collusion Scheme

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  • Sports money (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Calydor ( 739835 ) on Thursday November 03, 2016 @09:04AM (#53204915)

    Imagine if all the money the world spends on sports would, for just one year, be funnelled into things like getting people out of poverty, creating jobs, curing cancer, building infrastructure ...

    • by Luthair ( 847766 )
      I'm not sure I want the people watching it with more time on their hands, imagine the damage they could do to the world!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It does create jobs - for the hot dog vendors, ticket salesmen, parking attendants. It also pays for the athletes and so forth. Arguably, this is a better way to get someone out of poverty than handing them money.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Yes, pay millions to the athlete and billions to the corporations and that little trickle for the hotdog vendor makes it all worthwhile. Money well spent...
      • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )

        yeah right, as someone else pointed out millions to the athlete and billions to the corporations but trickles to the hotdog vendors. They may do alright along with many others working the stadium. The ones I think should be reasonably paid are NFL cheerleaders. They are professional dancers of quality class like Broadway, showdance, and open pro competitions. The auditions are tough, requires candidates with formal dance training, athletic endurance with ballet precision. It takes more than just being prett

        • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )
          following up on this but with some baseball, a friend attended some minor league games and he said in some ways these are more fun than MLB games. Besides much lower costs, they had various activities for attendees between innings to keep everyone interested. He felt there was much more audience interaction than the majors as they don't have huge celebrity draw they then use other things to have people return to the next game.
    • by sims 2 ( 994794 )

      Funny all that money has never been able to so much as let you watch the game you wanted on tv as TFA mentions they are often blacked out because someone wants a unreasonable fee for carriage.

      There needs to be a better way to negotiate carriage other than giving customers the shaft every time they can't reach an agreement.

      It does however seem to be enough that it's the equivalent of unlimited funds for any requests for sports related gov't building here.

    • Re:Sports money (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Gryle ( 933382 ) on Thursday November 03, 2016 @09:40AM (#53205079)
      Imagine if all the money the world spends on $THINGIDONOTCAREFOR would, for just one year, be funnelled into $THINGSIDEEMMOREIMPORTANT...
      • Re:Sports money (Score:4, Insightful)

        by orgelspieler ( 865795 ) <[moc.cam] [ta] [eifl0w]> on Thursday November 03, 2016 @12:49PM (#53206573) Journal

        Honestly, I know you are pointing out the absurdity of the argument, but you have a good point. There is a surprising number of things that people would be able to build consensus on. Depends on what we put in those columns. I think things like the war on drugs, or the TSA would be good examples. But it's hard to know for sure what people really would support if they knew all the facts.

        The problem with looking at luxury items as things that shouldn't have money spent on them is that it fails to take into account the knock-on effects. The NFL employs a bunch of people. Sure, the fatcats at the top make more than they should, but Joe Cameraman isn't getting millions of dollars, even if he's the best out there. The old lady making the crappy pizza at the concession stand is probably eeking out a meager existence. Should we be docking their pay for a whole year so that we can finally get rid of a disease or build a new library? I don't know, but it seems like most Americans would answer no.

        If we -- as a society -- wanted to cure cancer instead of watch football, people would be donating to M.D. Anderson instead of buying Texans tickets. We vote with our wallets every day.

    • Now take that imaginary money, multiply it by 10,000,000 and you will get the annual military budget.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Imagine if all the money the world spends on sports would, for just one year, be funnelled into things like getting people out of poverty, creating jobs, curing cancer, building infrastructure ...

      Imagine if all the money the US spends in its defense budget would go to Pensions, NASA, Healthcare, the VA, etc.... The problem isn't the money isn't there but that it is spent on the useless military which is mismanaged, wasteful and inefficient.

    • Imagine if all the money the world spends on sports would, for just one year, be funnelled into things like getting people out of poverty, creating jobs, curing cancer, building infrastructure ...

      Ah, given that charities are a well-known avenue for sheltering income from taxes, I'd say that there's quite a bit of sports money being funneled into the things you've listed here.

      Now, if you want to talk about REAL money and impact, take a look at what governments spend on war. Or the amount of money and resources spent on treating disease instead of curing it.

    • It would be a drop in the bucket.

      Some hippie tried to claim if the U.S. used the money it spent on the military to educate kids it could do so for a year.

      Someone not stoned showed how the billions we spend every year would amount to a few cents per kid per year. A completely doable amount to educate someone for a year.

      The same with this nonsense. The amount of money spent on sports, worldwide, is insignificant to the amount of money needed to do what you want.

      Also, handing money over to people will not get

      • by Calydor ( 739835 )

        Listen to yourself.

        If billions of dollars per year amount to a few cents per kid per year, the number of kids in your country would be approaching TRILLIONS. You are not the world's largest ant colony, so knock it off!

    • A guy looked at my Corvette the other day and said I wonder how many people could have been fed for the money that sports car cost.

      I replied I am not sure, it fed a lot of families in Bowling Green, Kentucky who built it, it fed the people who make the tires, it fed the people who made the components that went into it, it fed the people in the copper mine who mined the copper for the wires, it fed people in Decatur IL. at Caterpillar who make the trucks that haul the copper ore. It fed the trucking people w

      • Re:Sports money (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Calydor ( 739835 ) on Thursday November 03, 2016 @11:37AM (#53206003)

        Socialism is taking your money against your will and shoving something down your throat that you never asked for.

        You mean like paying five dollars a month for a sports channel you don't watch?

        • Socialism is taking your money against your will and shoving something down your throat that you never asked for.

          You mean like paying five dollars a month for a sports channel you don't watch?

          Show me where the government is taking $5 a month for this service. Cable/satellite is a choice, it's not required.

          I don't like channel bundling either. But don't confuse private enterprise with government mandates.

          • Re:Sports money (Score:4, Insightful)

            by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples@gmail.BOHRcom minus physicist> on Thursday November 03, 2016 @12:40PM (#53206513) Homepage Journal

            Cable/satellite is a choice, it's not required.

            Satellite TV is a choice. But cable TV often isn't, as cable ISPs and fiber ISPs in the United States tend to tie it [wikipedia.org] with their home Internet service, charging less per month for TV and Internet than for Internet alone. Or is home Internet service itself not a necessity to find and keep a job that pays a living wage in the United States?

            • Cable/satellite is a choice, it's not required.

              Satellite TV is a choice. But cable TV often isn't, as cable ISPs and fiber ISPs in the United States tend to tie it [wikipedia.org] with their home Internet service, charging less per month for TV and Internet than for Internet alone. Or is home Internet service itself not a necessity to find and keep a job that pays a living wage in the United States?

              Having a TV is a choice. Having Internet access is a choice. Having a phone is a choice. They are "wants" and not "needs".

              No, Internet access is not a necessity.

              • Or is home Internet service itself not a necessity to find and keep a job that pays a living wage in the United States?

                No, Internet access is not a necessity.

                Shelter and food are necessities. Would you agree? If so, how should a U.S. resident with no Internet access go about finding and keeping a job that is enough to pay for rent and food, in particular not a part-time, minimum-wage or near-minimum-wage job in the unskilled service industry?

          • by Calydor ( 739835 )

            You're the kind of guy who also thinks it's not censorship if it gets outsourced to private companies, aren't you?

    • Imagine if all the money the world spends on what I myself won't willingly give up would, for just one year, be funnelled into things like getting people out of poverty, creating jobs, curing cancer, building infrastructure ...

      FTFY

    • But watching grown men (and women) move a ball from one end of a field to another must be worth millions of mere lives.

    • Imagine if all the money the world spends on sports would, for just one year, be funnelled into things like getting people out of poverty, creating jobs, curing cancer, building infrastructure ...

      How about all the money the world spends on passive entertainment? Sure Hollywood would implode and TV sales would tank. But people would actually get outside and talk to one another, play some games, bond with friends and family.

    • The Catholic Church has a similar problem. Apparently, Catholic Youth Organization sports promoters think that a better use of time on a Sunday morning is a sporting event instead of Mass.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Dodgers could have used this to shake up the entire sports broadcast industry by signing a deal with online media company to offer online streaming to Los Angeles area. MLB itself runs a nation wide streaming service except for local games. I bet Netflix would have loved to sell to its customers in Los Angeles $5/mo add-on package. Local Dodgers games exclusively on Netflix! Hey they area have the geolock technology already built up. Old traditional cable companies would have lost their minds at that.

    • by Luthair ( 847766 )
      Live streams are pretty different than a pre-recorded blob.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Uh, that would be a disaster for the Dodgers. Instead of getting a cut of every subscriber (of which probably 10% actually watch Dodger games), they would only get a cut of those who actually watch Dodger games.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Uh, that would be a disaster for the Dodgers.

        and a windfall for everyone else, but apparently the Dodgers are special

      • by Calydor ( 739835 )

        Maybe the Dodgers should make themselves more interesting, then.

        I'm curious, are the ticket prices to watch a game at the stadium only paid by the 10% interested in watching the game, or by everyone?

    • Wouldn't have been anywhere close to the revenue.

      Which is more, $5/mo from all cable and satellite providers in the Southern California area, or $5/mo opt in from Dodgers fans in the Southern California area?

      The almighty dollar runs the show when it comes to channel carriage, and especially professional sports properties.

    • exclusively not allowed for sports also they want it to be in a basic package and not as an addon.

      Directv and others wanted to sell it as add-on package.

  • As much as both of these wanker companies suck and their amalgam would logarithmically increase their suckiness, no eventuality would make them worse than the DoJ, they would have MORE credibility with me than the DoJ does at this moment (or the FBI). It'd be like chocolate cake suing spongecake and whip cream from becoming a twinkie cause it's fattening.
  • It should read:

    Us goverment finally sues Att/DirecTv, a typical TV provider company.

    Further, the US goverment said: As soon as we pull our head fully outta our ass we will sue Comcast next.
  • Still true after all this time...

  • AT&T/DirecTV needs to buy out the cubs local rights / start a new RSN and maybe even the blackhawks local tv rights as well and then play some hardball with

    Comcast
    WOW!
    Mediacom
    RCN
    Dish
    Charter communications
    Time Warner Cable

    The small systems like
    Cass Cable tv
    Butler-Berner Mutual Telephone
    Clarence cablevision
    and others
    and others likely will take take it or lose a lot people to directv.

  • I think it's about time our national past time became nationalized. This is just beyond bullshit.

  • by yzf750 ( 178710 ) on Thursday November 03, 2016 @10:58AM (#53205685)
    Comcast, the Astro's and the Rocket's started Comcast Sportsnet Houston about 3 years ago. Lots of local sports content, HD shows and of course all the games live. ATT, DirecTV and Dish all refused to carry the channel. The content gradually shrank to infomercials except when a game was on, then finally the channel went into bankruptcy. ATT then bought the remains and the same day launched Root Sports. Dish and DirecTV both picked the channel up. Interesting how it happened in LA too...
    • by Luthair ( 847766 )
      Ah, but did they actually communicate with each other about the decisions in advance? Its fine for no one to decide to buy the only question is whether they talked about it beforehand.
      • by yzf750 ( 178710 )
        Good point. I do not know, but based on the timing, it sounds like the same thing happened. Comcast wanted them to put it on everyone's tv package. The others wanted it only on a special sports tier.
    • It's almost as if this is a non-published "business strategy" policy! There's probably an email trail too.
  • All these channel networks should just abandon all the distribution networks and force the conversion to IP streaming and charge the customers directly. Then they get all the cash. Bankrupt the cable companies by making all their content disappear.

  • This is why ISP's should not be allowed to be content providers. I realize this story concerns cable/satellite but the implications are the same. Disney originally had a special ESPN web site that only subscribers to a certain ISP could access. That is to say you couldn't even load the web site if you weren't connected to the internet from this ISP. This is the world without Net Neutrality and it is a very real possibility. I'm sure Comcast/TWC did in fact jack up the price to astronomical figures to make i
    • "this story concerns cable/satellite"...well, yes and no. OFFICIALLY, Dish and AT&T hadn't merged yet. But a merger doesn't just spontaneously occur. This here is proof they had been working together more as a "single business entity" in some respects far earlier than the announced merger. If one had "total access" to their files and emails, there are probably dozens of other collusions between Dish and AT&T pre-merger too that no one will ever know about.

      Both AT&T and Verizon need to have
  • by jeffb (2.718) ( 1189693 ) on Thursday November 03, 2016 @12:06PM (#53206231)

    See, if AT&T already owned Time Warner, there'd be no issue here -- instead of "illegal collusion", this would just be a responsible and well-run company maximizing value for its shareholders.

    Now, where did I leave that sarcasm tag...

  • Of all the injustices in this country... missing the game may be "upsetting" for a select few, but there are actual crimes in progress with victims who truly suffer as a result. [opinion]This seems a shameful misappropriation of DoJ resources. They should be tackling predatorial baking practices, imbalanced housing laws, broadband internet pricing collusion (hey, remember when DSL cost $15/month? You can't even connect to the Internet for less than $60 these days...), prescription drug pricing, insurance sc

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