The game isn't over, but DirecTV has won the first round of its latest battle against Comcast.
A federal judge in Illinois today denied Comcast's request for a temporary restraining order against DirecTV that would have prohibited the nation's largest satellite TV provider from advertising its popular NFL Sunday Ticket package.
"We're pleased the judge recognized Comcast's veiled attempt to limit our ability to compete in the marketplace and denied the TRO [temporary restraining order]," said Jon Gieselman, senior VP-marketing and direct sales for DirecTV, in a statement. "We're happy to go head-to-head with Comcast any day on whose service is superior, so we look forward to competing in the marketplace rather than the courtroom."
Comcast executives could not be reached for comment at press time.
Comcast, the country's biggest cable TV company, last week sued DirecTV in federal court in Chicago, claiming that DirecTV is falsely advertising its exclusive NFL Sunday Ticket package -- which provides viewers with every single NFL game each week, including out-of -market games -- as "free."
Comcast says DirecTV does not disclose that the "free" NFL Sunday Ticket package requires a two-year commitment -- with pricey cancellation charges -- that includes one year of free NFL Sunday Ticket programming and a second year charged at the regular price of $334.95.
(UPDATE: A DirecTV spokesman said the terms of the offer allow customers to opt out of the paid, second year of NFL Sunday Ticket, although they remain on the hook for the overall two-year commitment to DirecTV service.)
Comcast last week filed an emergency motion for a restraining order; DirecTV on Monday filed its own brief with the Illinois magistrate, saying that Comcast not only used the word "free" in its lawsuit when the actual DirecTV ads say "at no extra charge," but also noting that the Philadelphia-based company waited almost two months after the first ads began appearing to file suit.
DirecTV has been advertising its NFL Sunday Ticket package even before the National Football League ended its four-month lockout last month. That advertising has included print, internet, radio and an elaborate video series called "Football Cops" starring NFL stars Peyton and Eli Manning.
DirecTV said in a statement today that Comcast was attempting "to handicap the company from advertising its best offer of the year, one where new customers receive the popular NFL Sunday Ticket package at no extra charge for the 2011 season."