NEW YORK, June 3 (Reuters) - A federal court of appeals has rejected allegations that major cable and satellite television companies are violating antitrust laws by forcing customers to subscribe to TV channels in bundles.
The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held on Friday that the cable and satellite TV subscribers who brought the lawsuit had failed to show that the industry-wide practice of selling multi-channel packages restrains competition in the television market.
Defendants named in the suit include television programmers NBC Universal and Fox Entertainment Group and distributors Time Warner Cable Inc and Comcast Corp.
"Antitrust law recognizes the ability of businesses to choose the manner in which they do business absent any injury to competition," Judge Sandra Ikuta wrote on behalf of a three-judge panel.
In the lawsuit, subscribers sought to force the programmers and distributors to offer channels on an individual basis, allowing customers to purchase only the ones they want to watch. The subscribers argued that the bundling of stations reduces consumer choice and raises the price of cable and satellite television.
Maxwell Blecher, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, described the court's decision as factually and legally flawed. "Deprivation of choice is an anticompetitive effect that antitrust laws condemn," he said, adding that the plaintiffs plan to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
A lawyer for the media companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The case is Brantley et al v. NBC Universal Inc et al, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, No. 09-56785.
For Brantley et al: Maxwell Blecher of Blecher & Collins.
For NBC Universal Inc et al: Glenn Pomerantz of Munger Tolles & Olson and Arthur Burke of Davis Polk & Wardwell.
(Reporting by Terry Baynes)