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Cable Technology Feature Article

August 08, 2011

Comcast Sues DirecTV in Response to Ads about 'Free' NFL Games

By Ed Silverstein, TMCnet Contributor

Comcast (News - Alert) has sued DirecTV over ads it claims deceive viewers about pro football programs. Comcast alleges DirecTV is committing false advertising, unfair competition and consumer fraud – and its lawsuit further claims that DirecTV (News - Alert) is responsible for telling “an outright lie,” according to Adweek.

DirecTV says its “NFL Sunday Ticket” service is “free” – even though it has a minimum contract of two years, with second-year charges and a penalty for early cancellation, Comcast says in its lawsuit, Bloomberg (News - Alert) reported.

“DirecTV’s television and Internet ads employ a carefully crafted scheme of purported disclaimers that were intentionally designed to deceive as many consumers as possible,” and “many of its ads, especially those aired on the radio, simply omit this critical fact altogether,” Adweek reported.

The package typically costs $66.99 a month for five months or $334.95 per month for one football season, according to a report carried on TMCnet.

Comcast wants the federal court in Chicago to issue an order that would stop print, radio and Internet ads, and require DirecTV to release a retraction.

In addition, Comcast said the DirecTV ads impacted fans during the four-month National Football League labor lockout. The disagreement was recently resolved. Comcast also wants damages for profits it lost because of the allegedly false ads.  But DirecTV is not moved by the lawsuit.

“We believe Comcast’s complaint is completely without merit and we plan to defend ourselves vigorously,” Darris Gringeri, a spokesman for DirecTV, told Bloomberg News.

In another statement published by The New York Times in a blog, DirecTV said, “We think it’s deplorable that Comcast is trying to compete in the courtroom rather than in the marketplace. New customers who sign up for DirecTV can indeed get NFL Sunday Ticket at no extra charge for one year and there is no requirement to subscribe to NFL Sunday Ticket the following year. The last thing we want to do is mislead new customers.”

 DirecTV has over 28 million subscribers, Bloomberg said, based on company records.

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Ed Silverstein is a TMCnet contributor. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell