DirecTV wins Pegasus suit

Court to mull separate issue of pre-judgment interest

News Corp.’s DirecTV won $51 million in damages Wednesday from a small company that’s been a thorn in its side, as a California jury ruled that Pegasus Satellite Communications breached a joint marketing contract between the two companies.

The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California will separately consider DirecTV’s request for pre-judgment interest of more than $11 million.

“We are extremely gratified by the verdict,” said Dan Fawcett, exec VP for legal and business affairs at DirecTV. “We believe the evidence in the case overwhelmingly showed that Pegasus failed in its responsibility to fairly reimburse DirecTV for certain of the subscriber acquisition costs that DirecTV had incurred for Pegasus’ benefit,” he added.

Cheryl Crate, a spokeswoman for Bala Cynwyd, Pa.-based Pegasus, said, “We are disappointed in the jury’s verdict and believe that our claims … are meritorious. We will be giving careful consideration to our legal options respecting the verdict, including our rights of appeal.”

The verdict in the marketing agreement litigation does not affect the separate, and more portentous, litigation between Pegasus and DirecTV over Pegasus’ right to distribute DirecTV programming. DirecTV wants to end the relationship.

Pegasus shares plunged 12.54% Wednesday to $30.21. DirecTV shares rose 1.48% to $17.15.

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