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Comcast Wants To take Viamedia’s Antitrust Case To Supreme Court

 |  May 19, 2020

Comcast plans to ask the US Supreme Court to shut down an antitrust lawsuit claiming it uses a regional advertising clearinghouse to monopolize “representation services” for coordinating TV ad placements in three cities, reported Bloomberg. 

The media giant will file a petition by September 4 seeking high court review of the antitrust lawsuit by rival Viamedia, according to a filing Monday, May 18, in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

The case returned to the Chicago federal court for trial-level proceedings after it was revived in February by a divided US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which refused to reconsider its ruling.

The suit accuses Comcast of leveraging its control over its “interconnect”—the centralized advertising marketplace—to force rival telecoms to boycott the ad coordination services offered by Viamedia, its sole competitor in that arena.

Comcast also refused to let Viamedia use the interconnect at all, the suit claims. The two tactics allegedly combined to drive it out of the TV ad placement markets in Chicago, Detroit, and Hartford, Connecticut.

The case was thrown out in 2018 by Judge Charles R. Norgle Sr., to whose courtroom it has now returned. Viamedia failed to show that only an anti-competitive scheme could explain Comcast’s actions, Norgle found at the time.

The Seventh Circuit reversed in a 141-page ruling, acknowledging that monopolists generally have no duty to deal with competitors. But they do under “limited circumstances,” especially when a company forsakes short-term profits solely to undercut a rival, Judge David F. Hamilton wrote for the majority.

Viamedia also offered enough evidence to move forward with its separate tying claim, the court found.

Judge Michael B. Brennan partly dissented. He agreed that Comcast should face liability for refusing to let Viamedia use the interconnect, but rejected the refusal-to-deal reasoning.

In its rehearing petition, Comcast stated the majority wrongly extrapolated a broad rule from an “exceptional” Supreme Court decision that imposed antitrust liability only if there’s “no possible business reason” for its refusal to deal.

The argument, which cited a subsequent high court ruling, likely previews its forthcoming bid to have the justices take the case.

In the meantime, the case should be stayed, Comcast says in a joint filing docketed Monday, May 18.

Full Content: Bloomberg

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