DirecTV’s Turn to Fork Over Documents

11/29/2006 7:45 AM Eastern

A judge this week ordered DirecTV to produce all of its distribution agreements -- in effect from 2000 to the present -- that involve the direct-broadcast satellite provider getting retransmission consent for TV stations in exchange for carrying a cable network.

In Los Angeles, U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Hillman agreed to Lifetime Television’s request for the DirecTV agreements as part of ongoing litigation between the DBS provider and the programmer.

In an order filed Tuesday, the court said DirecTV must provide its retransmission-consent-related agreements within 30 days.

“Although DirecTV argues that Lifetime is seeking documents that are not relative to this action, it appears to the court that such documents are relative to the ‘net effective rate’ issue,” the judge said in his order.

DirecTV filed a breach-of-contract suit against Lifetime early this year, alleging that the programmer reneged on a deal to pay $200 to EchoStar Communications’ Dish Network customers who switched over to DirecTV. At the time, Dish had dropped Lifetime during a contract dispute.

Lifetime subsequently filed a countersuit against DirecTV, which has been withholding license fees from the women’s programmer.

In its complaint, DirecTV alleged that Lifetime violated a most-favored-nation clause in their carriage deal in that rival EchoStar ultimately got what amounts to a lower license fee, or net effective rate, for Lifetime programming.

In the pact that got Lifetime back on Dish, EchoStar pays the network directly for carriage and also to distribute the signals for Hearst-Argyle TV stations. Hearst Corp. controls the station group and owns 50% of Lifetime.

As part of its deal with EchoStar, Lifetime has to compensate Hearst-Argyle directly for Dish’s retransmission of the broadcaster’s stations, reportedly $11 million.

In September, Lifetime was ordered to produce a host of documents, including those relating to its negotiations and communications for EchoStar’s carriage of Lifetime and the Hearst stations.