Dodgers: TV Lawsuit Against AT&T Reaches a Settlement
The U.S. Justice Department reached a settlement on a lawsuit against AT&T alleging their executives shared negotiation information with other TV providers and conspired against them to not reach an agreement to host SportsNetLA.
As predicted by our own Ryan Vargas, the settlement does nothing to help resolve the issue of the availability of SportsNetLA among other cable providers. The settlement solely requires that AT&T monitor its employees so they do not illegally share information about contract negotiations with competitors.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Justice Department did not demand that AT&T begin carrying SportsNetLA as part of the settlement. This is unfortunate because what this means is that if AT&T would want to carry SportsNetLA, they would have to come to an agreement with Charter Communications without the assistance of the Justice Department.
Entering the fourth season of blacked out Dodger games, this settlement does nothing to help thousands of Dodger fans to watch the games on TV. The deal almost surely solidifies Charter as the sole pay-TV company to carry the Dodgers’ channel.
An AT&T spokesman had this to say about the settlement.
"“We are please to have resolved this matter to the satisfaction of all parties.”"
Oh, how gratifying it must be for AT&T that they were able to resolve their lawsuit in a way that was very lenient on their own behalf while putting their paying customers at a disadvantage.
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While there was never any legal obligation for the U.S. Justice Department to demand that AT&T carry the Dodgers’ channel, the Dodgers had hoped this lawsuit would break the stalemate between the two TV providers and help force an agreement.
Dodgers President and CEO, Stan Kasten has been very vocal about his displeasure with the situation. Kasten was quoted saying that he thinks about the SportsNetLA blackout nearly every waking moment since he joined as President.
On an interview with Mason & Ireland back on March 9th, Kasten was quoted talking about the TV situation.
"“I have to tell you, quite literally, it occupies almost every waking moment…” Kasten said. “This is really the only black mark against our record in terms of the things we’ve been able to produce. And it haunts all of us. Especially since let’s face it, there were things going on behind the scenes that cause all of this that never should have happened. But were trying to fight our way through it and I have to tell you, it consumes all of us. Especially me.”"
While comments like that from the President and CEO of the Dodgers are encouraging to hear for Dodger fans, the fact is nothing is being done. I’m luckily not one of those thousands of Dodger fans that are blacked out from watching the games. But, I do know several fans who are impacted by this settlement and fans who have made big adjustments to accommodate this new channel.
For many Dodger fans, they missed the last three years of Vin Scully’s broadcasting career because of the two hard-headed providers. While it’s easy to turn around and say the Dodgers are the ones who benefitted from this TV deal, in 8.35 billion ways. But for the most part, the Dodgers’ ownership has tried to give it back to the fans by providing a competitive product on the field and making enhancements to Dodgers Stadium.
The Dodgers have not commented on the settlement yet. But we can accurately assume the settlement isn’t to the delight of anyone in ownership.
The truth is there was little to nothing the Dodgers could have done to encourage this ruling in favor of the fans. The ongoing issue revolves around the providers and their inability to find a middle ground. Time Warner Cable made an offer that they couldn’t possibly keep up with and resulted in them being bought out by Charter. AT&T, on the other hand, isn’t going to overpay for a channel where the risk does not outweigh the reward.
Going into the fourth season, I can’t see a positive outcome coming out of it. The longer this stalemate goes the advantage AT&T has by shaving years off the contract. There are still thousands of Dodger fans who have not switched to Charter for this channel, so I don’t believe AT&T are feeling any negative effects.
Next: Bold Calls for the 2017 Season
The only foreseeable solution I can see is if the Dodgers win the World Series. With a successful team comes a larger following. The Dodgers may not be able to control the negotiations between the two providers. But the Dodgers can control the product they produce on the field. In the end, all we can do is hope for Dodger success to increase the demand for a deal to be done. For those thousands of Los Angeles fans that are blacked out from watching the games, in the meantime, they’re left following games on the boxscore of their ESPN app.