Court Vetos Consumer Choice on Cable

9th Circuit Court

Consumers can’t force cable companies to let them select indivdual channels they want to buy, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.  An antitrust lawsuit seeking to force cable companies and programmers to let consumers pick and choose the channels they want to buy is really a consumer class action masquerading as an antitrust suit, according to Judge Sandra Ikuta.  The 9th Circuit  found the consumers failed to show that the practice of bundling programs for sale by cable channels had an adverse affect on competition, as required to make an antitrust claim.  Rather, the claim is portrayed as an injury to consumers and that doesn’t hold up as an antitrust action, according to Ikuta.

 The appeals panel upheld dismissal of the antitrust case, Brantley v. NBC Universal, Inc.  The consumer plaintiffs had argued that the practice of selling bundled cable channels foreclosed independent programmers from entering and competing in the upstream market for programming channels.

They failed to convince the court that tying the purchase of “must-have” programming with low-demand channels excluded other sellers of low-demand channels from the market.

Joining Ikuta in the decision were judges Pamela Rymer and Consuelo Callahan.

Case:  09-56785, Brantley v. NBC Universal, Inc. (9th Circ.)

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