Independent cable TV ad management company Viamedia held Friday (Feb. 24) that its antitrust complaint against Comcast and its Spotlight ad unit is “moving forward” after a judge granted a request by Comcast to dismiss a portion of the lawsuit.
Viamedia’s complaint, filed the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division, alleges that Comcast has unlawfully impeded Viamedia and other spot cable ad sales companies' ability to compete with Spotlight. Viamedia claims that Comcast has abused its controlling stake in NCC and a regional cable interconnect spot sales cooperative to thwart competition and force spot cable advertisers to use Spotlight instead of Viamedia or others. The complaint is focused on Chicago and Detroit, where Comcast runs regional cable ad sales.
Comcast has previously countered that the ad market is “robustly competitive” and that all MVPDs account for only about 7% of local advertising sales, and that nearly half of the interconnects in the top 50 DMAs, nearly half of the interconnects for local cable advertising, including those in New York and Los Angeles, aren’t run by Comcast.
According to reports, including this one from the Cook County Record, U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve on Wednesday (Feb. 22) granted a request by Comcast to dismiss a portion of the lawsuit, finding that Comcast’s actions. Law 360 reports that the decision addresses only the “refusal to deal” aspect of the case, while the other claims raised by Viamedia are ongoing.
In a statement on the case, Viamedia held that its “antitrust claims for tying and exclusive dealing are moving ahead because Viamedia has plausibly alleged that Comcast is violating federal and state antitrust and tort laws by forcing competing satellite and cable TV providers to deal directly with Comcast if they want to advertise in regional markets…”
Viamedia said it is seeking damages of “not less than $75 million” adding that the case is also subject to trebling under the antitrust statute, and arguing that Comcast “thus faces potential liability in the hundreds of millions of dollars.” Viamedia also said the court has ordered that all discovery and dispositive motions for the case be completed by the end of Q3 2017.