Sky Angel Defends Antitrust Suit Against C-SPAN

Tells Court MSOs Were Monopoly Whose Withdrawal of Public Affairs Net Was Anticompetitive, Injurious

Sky Angel has asked a Federal Appeals Court to deny C-SPAN's request that it dismiss  dismiss the over-the-top provider's antitrust complaint against it.

Saying the public affairs net improperly withdrew its programming from the program distributor in 2009, Sky Angel filed the suit last fall.

In its response to C-SPAN's request that the court drop the suit, Sky Angel said that the court has jurisdiction, that cable operators have monopoly power over the relevant market, and that an antitrust claim is warranted and antitrust injury demonstrable, which includes “lost profits, lost business opportunity, loss of the ability to effectively compete, and injury to Sky Angel’s prestige and reputation."

Sky Angel has alleged that because C-SPAN is owned and operated by the cable industry, it "ceased to act as a legitimate collaboration among competitors" with the withdrawal of programming and instead illegally harmed competition by depriving Sky Angel of content that was highly valued and that all of Sky Angel's competitors had access to.

In 2008, Sky Angel decided to switch from a satellite service to what it describes as a hybrid satellite/Internet delivery service, a move that prompted some programmers to choose not to be carried.

Sky Angel subsequently filed a program access suit against one of those programmers, Discovery. The FCC has yet to resolve the complaint, but has tentatively concluded an over-the-top aggregator does not fall under program access rule protections because it does not also own the distribution facilities that a traditional MVPD does. As an adjunct to that decision, the commission has also asked for comment on the tentative conclusion and how it should treat online video providers going forward when it comes to protections like program carriage and obligations like PEG programming and access obligations.

C-SPAN last month asked the court to dismiss the complaint with prejudice (it could not then be re-filed), saying there was case law that clearly prohibited Sky Angel from undertaking what C-SPAN said was "an end run around the FCC's exclusive jurisdiction on program access issues." It says that a party can complain to the FCC, then to an appeals court if it doesn't like the decision. "Nowhere, however, does the statute allow for district court review of these issues" for a party dissatisfied with the pace of an FCC decision.

C-SPAN, reacting to Tuesday's petition by Sky Angel, said the filing "makes clear that there is no coherent legal theory underlying its complaint and no facts to back up any of its illusory claims. We are confident that its attempt to contort a simple breach of contract claim into a federal antitrust case will fall flat.”