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It's a Date

Major cable interests have about three months to prepare to defend against a class action lawsuit arguing that consumers should have the right to buy channels on an à la carte basis.

According to Multichannel News, the case will begin on March 10, 2008.

In what was certainly music to the ears of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Kevin Martin, the Los Angeles-based law firm of Blecher & Collins filed the complaint in September, naming a group of large cable and satellite TV service operators and programmers. They included: Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX), Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Cox Communications Inc. , Charter Communications Inc. , DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV), Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC), NBC Universal , Viacom Inc. (NYSE: VIA), The Walt Disney Co., Fox, and EchoStar Satellite LLC (now known as Dish Network Corp.). (See Cable, Satcos Face à la Carte Lawsuit and EchoStar Ready to Split.)

At the time, it was filed on behalf of just nine individuals who had paid for "expanded basic cable" subscriptions over a four-year period. However, Maxwell Blecher, a lawyer involved in the case, told Cable Digital News in late September that his firm had received about 50 emails from others who were willing to join the fight. He also said he didn't expect the case to be resolved for three years or more.

The cable industry has long argued that à la carte would wreak havoc on MSO and programmer business models, and would result in higher prices and fewer choices for consumers.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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