The U.S. Department of Justice is nearing a settlement with AT&T regarding a suit the agency filed last year alleging executives at the telecom giant's DirecTV unit colluded with other operators to block carriage of Charter Communication’s Los Angeles Dodgers regional sports network.
According to the Los Angeles Times, which first reported the settlement talks, the deal would not require DirecTV or its parent AT&T to carry the RSN, dubbed SportsNet LA.
In court papers filed March 8, DOJ attorneys filed a motion in support of DirecTV’s request for a continuance for a hearing to dismiss the case, stating that both sides have “engaged in productive settlement talks.”
“The requested continuance will permit the parties to engage in further settlement discussions in the hope of resolving the dispute,” the motion stated. That hearing is scheduled for March 27.
The Dodgers network was launched in 2014 by Time Warner Cable and faced immediate opposition from distributors who said the channel was too pricey. Time Warner Cable – which was purchased by Charter Communications in May – had reportedly paid the team $7 billion-to $8 billion for the rights to carry games for 25 years and guaranteed the monthly subscriber license fee, even if other distributors refused to carry the channel.
The Dodgers, which own the network that is managed by TWC, reportedly were charging $5 per month per subscriber for the channel, making it one of the priciest RSNs in the country. To date, only Charter is carrying the network.
The Justice Dept. sued DirecTV in November, alleging that the satellite carrier (which was purchased by AT&T in July 2015) had colluded with other distributors to not carry the channel. The suit singled out DirecTV vice president of programming Dan York and then-DirecTV CEO Mike White as sharing sensitive pricing information concerning the network with other distributors and agreeing not to cherry-pick customers from rivals.