A la carte advocates have to go back to class


An attempt to nail MVPDs on behalf of subscribers for antitrust violations due to the practice of channel bundling has been tossed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Sandra S. Ikuta said the class action was “…a consumer protection class action masquerading as an antitrust suit.”

A smorgasbord of media companies was named on the defendant list, including NBC Universal, Viacom, The Walt Disney Company, Fox Entertainment Group, Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Cox, DirecTV, Echostar and Cablevision.

The allegations, per Ikuta’s opinion, stated that the only way to get popular channels is to accept subscriptions to channels that are not wanted, and an a la carte channel menu is something the plaintiffs felt should be offered.
They also charged that bundling practices made it difficult for independent programmers to acquire a place on the channel menu.

Ikuta said that allegations made by the plaintiffs were not supported, insofar as harm to consumers or independent channels was demonstrated.

Ikuta concluded, “Although plaintiffs may be required to purchase bundles that include unwanted channels in lieu of purchasing individual cable channels, antitrust law recognizes the ability of businesses to choose the manner in which they do business absent an injury to competition.”

In the absence of a demonstration of harm to competition, the case was tossed.