The U.S. Justice Department weighed in on independent TV ad management company Viamedia’s $75 million anti-trust suit against Comcast, but did not say an Illinois federal judge erred when she dismissed the complaint in August.
In its amicus brief, filed last week, the DOJ reiterated the standard that must be met for Viamedia to prove that Comcast unlawfully impeded it from competing with Comcast Spotlight in the advertising “spot sales” business.
However, in its position-neutral filing, the DOJ stopped short of saying that U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve erred when she dismissed the case in August. But as one legal source told MCN, the standard it described closely matched Viamedia's argument.
Reps for both Comcast and Viamedia had no comment.
In its suit, Viamedia accused Comcast of violating anti-trust laws by forcing cable operators including WideOpenWest and RCN to use its Comcast Spotlight local-ad sales division if they wanted access to Comcast’s spot sales interconnect in Chicago and Illinois.
But St. Eve ruled in August that Viamedia failed to prove that position.
“The record lacks any evidence showing that Comcast has raised, plans to raise, or even has the ability to raise prices,” Judge St. Eve said in her ruling, obtained by Law 360.
Viamedia has appealed the decision with the Seventh Circuit Court. And last week, it received support from several advocacy groups, in the form of another amicus brief filed by Public Knowledge and the American Antitrust Institute.
The two non-profits argued that the Illinois federal court used too high a standard in evaluating Viamedia’s claim.
“The court erred in accepting Comcast’s ‘disintermediation’ defense, because a pro-competitive justification must be proved not merely posited,” the amicus brief said. “Moreover, vertical integration is not a sufficient defense for a refusal to deal that involves monopolization of both of the vertically related markets.”