A US federal judge has ruled that The Walt Disney will face consumer lawsuits accusing the media giant of business practices that have harmed competition in the live pay television market and caused prices to rise.
San Jose District Judge Edward Davila said Saturday in a pair of linked 25-page rulings that subscribers to Google’s YouTube TV and AT&T’s DirecTV Stream could sue Disney over “onerous” contracts that they allegedly created unfair obstacles for potential rivals.
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However, Dávila said the consumer plaintiffs could not seek damages, and ruled that they had not proven the existence of an illegal agreement between streaming television competitors. The judge gave until October 16 to file a new lawsuit.
Lawyers for Disney and a company spokesperson did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday.
Lawyers for the consumers also did not respond to a similar request.
The two potential class-action lawsuits accuse Disney of exercising “absolute power” to raise the price of its competitors’ streaming services by requiring them to include sports network ESPN in lower-priced channel packages. Disney owns ESPN.
The plaintiffs also allege that Disney’s streaming TV infrastructure and content agreements have created barriers for new competitors. According to the lawsuits, there has been no “scale” emergence of a rival “that did not already have some pre-existing video streaming infrastructure.”
Disney lawyers at Farella Braun + Martel and Cravath, Swaine & Moore said “antitrust laws exist to protect competition, not individuals.”
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The plaintiffs seek a court order prohibiting the alleged anti-competitive practices.
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