Willkie Wins for Peacock TV in City Lawsuit Imposing Fees on Streaming Services

September 26, 2022

On September 23, Willkie secured a significant win for NBCUniversal’s Peacock TV in a lawsuit brought by the City of East St. Louis, Illinois, in an effort to impose franchise fees on major video streaming service providers.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark A. Beatty granted Willkie’s motion to dismiss the putative class action lawsuit, putting an end to the city’s claims that Peacock TV and the other streaming services companies were required to pay video service provider fees under the Illinois Cable and Video Competition Law of 2007 (CVCL).

In a 28-page opinion, the court found that only the Illinois attorney general had enforcement authority under the language of the CVCL, which requires all video and cable service providers to register with the state. In addition, the court squarely rejected the city’s claims of trespassing, unjust enrichment and violations of municipal ordinance. The court dismissed the action with prejudice.

East St. Louis filed suit in June 2021, alleging the streaming service companies violated the CVCL by providing video service using the public rights-of-way without first obtaining authorization from the Illinois Commerce Commission and without paying the requisite fees to municipalities.

Willkie recently secured another significant victory for cable operators and consumers as municipalities seek to impose costly access fees on broadband and other services. Willkie prevailed on behalf of Comcast, NBCUniversal’s parent company, in a bellwether litigation relating to an ordinance by the city of Beaverton, Oregon, that imposed costly right-of-way access fees on Comcast’s broadband and other non-cable services, in addition to the existing cable franchise fee.

Willkie’s representation of Peacock TV was led by partners David Murray and Matt Basil, and associate Matthew Johnson.