Cox Communications, CBS and Fox have reached a $48 million deal to settle a long-running TV advertising antitrust complaint and will provide “meaningful cooperation” to help plaintiffs in their case against the remaining defendants, according to a 26 filing May. Those suspects include Meredith, Nexstar, Raycom, Scripps, Sinclair, TEGNA and Tribune.
The lawsuit began in 2018, when a series of complaints were filed across the country alleging that the broadcasters and their sales firms had “secretly orchestrated a plan to supracompetitively influence the price levels of broadcast TV spot ads by agreeing to pricing and competitively sensitive historical, current and forward-looking sales data.” The cases were consolidated in a federal court in Illinois and in 2019 an amended complaint has been submitted that added suspects and included allegations from the DOJ’s complaint against the major broadcasters over advertising data sharing. (The DOJ’s case was solved through two separate settlements.)
A vast amount of information was analyzed during the discovery, according to the file enclosed below, including more than 14 million documents produced by defendants and 1.4 million pages of telephone records from companies subpoenaed, including AT&T and Verizon.
CBS began settlement talks in the summer of 2021 and reached an agreement in principle late that year. The final agreement was executed earlier this month and the company agreed to pay $5 million. Fox’s negotiations followed a similar timeline and it will pay $6 million. The lion’s share of the settlement, $37 million, will be paid by Cox. Their settlement talks did not begin until a mediation in January 2022, but they agreed on key terms of a deal the following month.
If approved by the court, the settlement fund will be allocated based on how much a member of the class has spent on TV advertising during the relevant time period.
The parties are also asking U.S. District Judge Virginia M. Kendall to approve the Settlement Class, which is defined as: “All persons and entities in the United States that have purchased TV commercials directly from one or more broadcast defendants in a designated market area ( “DMA”) within which two or more of the Broadcast Defendants have sold TV spot advertisements on broadcast television stations, including anyone who paid one or more Defendants directly for all or a portion of the cost of such broadcast TV spot advertisements from January 1, 2014 through December 31, 2018 (the “Settlement Class Period”).” (This excludes defendants, their affiliates, officers, directors, employees and immediate family members of these excluded entities, as well as the federal government.)
A status hearing is currently scheduled for July 21.