Viamedia has officially asked the Supreme Court not to block a federal appeals court's February 2020 reinstatement of the advertising rep's lawsuit against Comcast.
Comcast had appealed that Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision to the Supremes. The circuit had overturned a lower court's dismissal of the claim by ad sales company Viamedia that Comcast was engaging in exclusionary conduct and monopolizing the spot cable market.
The four-year old antitrust suit could cost the cable giant up to $500 million if it loses.
“The Seventh Circuit’s reversal of the district court’s careful and well-reasoned decision dismissing Viamedia’s claims is inconsistent with longstanding antitrust law, including decisions by the Supreme Court and other circuit courts,” Comcast said in a statement when it filed the petition back in September. “We’re asking the Supreme Court to correct this error.”
Related: Chamber Backs Comcast in Viamedia Suit
In its response to Comcast's request for the High Court hearing, Viamedia said the Seventh Circuit had properly concluded that Viamedia's claim that Comcast had refused to deal with it was viable and that there was sufficient evidence for a trial on its separate claim that Comcast had tied Viamedia's sales of Comcast ad availabilities to Comcast-controlled Interconnects.
The lower court, in rejecting the Viamedia suit at the pleadings stage--before the facts were argued in court--found that to conclude such action was a refusal to deal, Viamedia needed to show that a defendant's actions "serve no rational pro-competitive purpose," but the Seventh Circuit reversed. It held that "[v]alid business justifications are relevant only to the rebuttal of a prima facie case of monopolization,” and that “balancing anticompetitive effects against hypothesized justifications depends on evidence and is not amenable to resolution on the pleadings.”
"The appeals court adhered rigorously to U.S. Supreme Court precedents, decided no issue in conflict with any other federal appeals court, and broke no new antitrust ground," Viamedia said of its Supreme Court filing. "Pre-trial discovery is underway as the parties move ahead in the trial court. For all these reasons, Viamedia has argued that the Supreme Court should deny Comcast’s petition in its entirety.”
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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.