Supreme Court declines to hear case about channel bundling

The U.S. Supreme Court is in no hurry to address the issue of choice — at least when it comes to cable television.

On Monday, the high court declined to hear a class-action suit against several big media companies including Comcast, News Corp. and Time Warner over how they bundle their cable channels for sale to pay-TV distributors.

The Supreme Court’s rejection is the latest defeat for the suit, which was brought by a group of cable and satellite TV subscribers led by Rob Brantley. In March, a panel of judges for the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco sided with the entertainment industry, saying that bundling does not violate antitrust laws.

Many large media companies sell their programming in bulk. For example, Viacom packages its channels including Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and MTV together with less popular networks that it owns.

While a pay-TV distributor can buy individual channels from a programmer, there are usually substantial discounts offered for carrying multiple channels. The plaintiffs counter that programmers abuse their market power and harm competition by requiring distributors to sell channels in prepackaged tiers rather than on an individual, or a la carte, basis.

The attorney for the plaintiffs, Maxwell Blecher of the Los Angeles law firm Blecher &Collins, declined to comment on the Supreme Court action.

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