“Competition, not collusion, best serves consumers and that is especially true when, as with pay-television providers, consumers have only a handful of choices in the marketplace.”AT&T released a statement that was attributed to general counsel David McAfee that read: “We respect the DOJ’s important role in protecting consumers, but in this case, which occurred before AT&T’s acquisition of DirecTV, we see the facts differently. The reason why no other major TV provider chose to carry this content was that no one wanted to force all of their customers to pay the inflated prices that Time Warner Cable was demanding for a channel devoted solely to L.A. Dodgers baseball. We make our carriage decisions independently, legally and only after thorough negotiations with the content owner. We look forward to presenting these facts in court.”Dodgers President and CEO Stan Kasten said in a statement: “The allegations against DirecTV in today’s complaint by the U.S. Justice Department are shocking but not surprising. We hope today’s action leads to all Dodger fans finally being able to view all Dodger games everywhere in the market.”Ed Desser, a longtime sports media executive based in Santa Monica, called the lawsuit “pretty extraordinary … just stunning. I can’t think of a situation like this in the 35 years that regional sports networks have been around. Every time we talk about the SportsNet L.A. situation, there has been the same conclusion: Nothing will change until something comes along to change the dynamics. Well, if there was ever something that could do it, it’s this.”The channel, folded into the Dodgers’ ownership group and run by American Media Productions LLC, is now known as Spectrum SportsNet L.A. Charter Communications bought Time Warner Cable in May 2016 but had added the channel to Charter subscribers after the merger deal was announced in June 2015. The channel has about 150 Dodgers games during spring training and the regular season as well as 24/7 Dodgers programming. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error At the launch, nearly 70 percent of Southern California viewers were unable to access the channel.DirecTV, the satellite dish service headquartered in El Segundo, was the most vocal opponent of the reported $4.90 per subscriber per month fees that TWC had been asking. DirecTV was seen as the important linchpin in getting full distribution accomplished, but as long as it did not add SportsNet L.A., also based in El Segundo, then other competing cable companies were not compelled to add it either.Amid the dragged out negotiations, DirecTV was purchased by AT&T for $48.5 billion in 2014, a deal approved by the government in July 2015. More than 80 percent of AT&T’s current video subscribers are DirecTV customers.While some Southern California subscribers of DirecTV dropped their service and were living in an area where they could pick up the Time Warner Cable/Spectrum service just for the Dodgers’ channel, it was not enough of a financial hit to spark new owner AT&T to continue negotiations.During that time, TWC has reportedly offered DirecTV a six-year deal, reducing the channel’s subscriber cost by 30 percent (to about $3.50 a month) for the first year, and offering to charge the next five years equal to what DirecTV had been asking its subscribers for its owned-and-operated Roots Sports Northwest (at about $3.85). AT&T did not take that offer.This Justice Department action, however, could force AT&T to change its tune. In the latest round of media mergers, AT&T has put in an $85.4 billion bid to purchase Time Warner Inc., a company separate from Time Warner Cable that involves cable channels such as TBS and TNT. The government is reviewing antitrust rules regarding that AT&T/Time Warner Inc. merger.As the Dodgers won the last three National League West Division titles, extending their streak to four seasons in a row, many Southern California fans were effectively blocked from seeing the final seasons of Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully.In the lawsuit under the “nature of the action” section, the wording reads: “A significant number of Dodgers fans have had no opportunity in recent years to watch their team play on television because overlapping and competitive pay television providers did not telecast Dodgers games. Those consumers were deprived of a fair competitive process when DirecTV unlawfully exchanged strategic information with three competitors during their parallel negotiations concerning carrying Dodgers games.“This complaint focuses on DirecTV, the ringleader of information sharing agreements with three different rivals that corrupted the Dodgers Channel carriage negotiations and the competitive process that the Sherman Act protects.”In making its case, the lawsuit also cites issues in the TWC launch of the Lakers-dominant TWC SportsNet regional network and how DirecTV initially declined to carry it because of a high asking price. DirecTV finally added it three days before the Lakers 2012-13 season started after competitor Charter signed on.“DirecTV rolled the dice during the Laker Channel negotiations but lost because TWC was able to pursue a divide-and-conquer strategy by offering DirecTV’s smaller competitors financial incentives to sign a deal early in the negotiation process.”Congressman Tony Cardenas, D-Panorama City, who is involved in trying to spur the Federal Communications Commission into getting involved in the matter, said in a statement that the DOJ’s allegations this time “are troubling.”“For the good of our Los Angeles baseball tradition, we must find a way to make sure these games are available for the fans who want to watch them at home,” he said. The U.S. Justice Department has stepped into the Dodgers’ SportsNet L.A. three-year distribution quagmire by filing a lawsuit Wednesday against DirecTV, and new parent company AT&T, calling it a “ringleader” for unlawfully “orchestrating information sharing agreements” with competing cable companies.The 57-page suit filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, alleges DirecTV exchanged “competitively sensitive information” with Cox Communications, Charter Communications and AT&T as negotiations were taking place after the Dodgers and Time Warner Cable launched the channel in February 2014.Since that time, AT&T, which controlled its U-verse TV service, has purchased DirecTV and has an industry-leading 25.3 million subscribers, but it has not budged on taking the channel.“Dodgers fans were denied a fair competitive process when DirecTV orchestrated a series of information exchanges with direct competitors that ultimately made consumers less likely to be able to watch their hometown team,” said Justice Department lawyer Jonathan Sallet.