The widespread TV blackout that left many Dodger fans blue the last three seasons is at the center of an antitrust lawsuit filed Wednesday by the U.S. Justice Department.
In the suit, the department alleged that DirecTV shared private information with competitors Cox Communications Inc., Charter Communications Inc. and AT&T during negotiations to carry the Dodgers' regional channel, SportsNet LA.
SportsNet LA is the only network with the right to telecast live Dodgers games in the city and its surrounding areas. It currently isn't carried by DirecTV, Cox or AT&T.
The Justice Department said its lawsuit alleges the companies "engaged in this conduct in order unlawfully to obtain bargaining leverage and to reduce the risk that they would lose subscribers if they decided not to carry the channel but a competitor chose to do so. The complaint further alleges that the information learned through these unlawful agreements was a material factor in the companies' decisions not to carry the Dodgers Channel."
AT&T, which has since acquired DirecTV, is claiming that its decision not to carry the channel was made independently.
"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," said AT&T General Counsel David McAtee. "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 LA 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."
This isn't a new issue for Angelenos. SportsNet LA has been unattainable to most fans for years.
"A lot of the regulars would sit there and talk about how they have to come over here to watch it because they don't want to get Time Warner," said Adam Chandran, a manager at 901 Bar and Grill near USC. "We had to get it to compensate since we were known as a Dodgers bar as well."
Chandran said that having the channel has been good for business, and the bar often gets calls to see whether the games will be on.
Daniel Lazaroff, a retired Loyola Marymount University law professor, elaborated on what the Justice Department does not want monetary penalties from the lawsuit. Instead, he said, it's asking for injunctive and declaratory relief "to make them stop doing this and to put in place compliance practices and so this won't repeat itself."
Stopping similar situations from happening in the future wouldn't help fans who have missed out the last few years. Many fans could not watch the final games of famed sports broadcaster and town treasure Vin Scully, who retired after the Dodgers' 2016 season.
"I'll miss Vin, all of his catch phrases and stuff," said Matthew Soufer, an 18-year-old business administration major at USC. "That definitely puts salt in the wound, but at the same time it's like simple economics and the men in pinstripes really don't care what we think."
Fellow fan and USC student Julia Bingham, 18, a sociology major, said that not being able to watch baseball is un-American.
"You have to pay for everything in the world, and I just think that to watch a baseball game, especially as an American, we should just be able to watch it for free," she said.
The lawsuit won't necessarily help frustrated fans as companies still won't be required to pick up the station no matter how things play out legally.
"We'll have to see how it plays out," said Loyola University's Lazaroff. "I'm not making any predictions. I'm just saying that [the lawsuit] does shine a light on the problem."