Time Warner Cable Sues DirecTV Over Football Ads

NFL Network Promo Called 'Deceptive'

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Time Warner Cable was more than a little surprised to find DirecTV's newspaper ads the weekend before Thanksgiving touting exclusive airing rights to several NFL games. So much so that it has filed a lawsuit against the subscriber-based satellite TV provider, citing false advertising and deceptive business practices in its efforts to promote the features and content on its NFL Network.
DirecTV agreed to say in future ads that local affiliates will cover games.
DirecTV agreed to say in future ads that local affiliates will cover games.

Hometown-crowd confusion
While DirecTV was right in saying it had exclusive rights for a national audience, the teams' hometown crowds were misled. Time Warner Cable spokesman Mark Harrad said the games DirecTV advertised -- which included teams in Green Bay, New York and Cincinnati -- were falsely billed as being available only to DirecTV subscribers, when the teams' local affiliates would also be broadcasting the events in their respective markets.

"Everyone knows that certain networks will always have local games available on local stations, whether they're played home or away," Mr. Harrad said. "All our New York City customers will see the Giants/Redskin game as part of the NFL Network schedule, which is just a way of intimating that you'll miss the game if you don't have the NFL Network."

"Despite Time Warner's allegations, we stand by the accuracy of our advertisements," said Jon Gieselman, DirecTV's senior VP-advertising and public relations. "Time Warner has mischaracterized the content of our ads in an effort to support their meritless claims. Perhaps this may be another ploy on the part of Time Warner to deflect the attention away from the many serious problems they are having with the take-over of Adelphia and Comcast customers. We plan to defend ourselves vigorously."

Series of flaps
DirecTV ceased publication of the ads Nov. 27, agreeing to specify in future advertisements that coverage will also be available from the teams' local affiliates.

The controversy is the latest in a series of flaps between Time Warner Cable and the NFL Network, and comes less than one month after the network's exec VP, Jeffrey Pash, appeared in front of Congress for a 90-minute hearing on sports broadcasting. Time Warner Cable CEO Landel Hobbs argued that the NFL's rates were "out of whack" with its ratings, standing firm in his resistance to paying the network's fees for carrying privileges.

In addition to DirecTV, the 3-year-old channel is distributed through cable operators such as Cox and Comcast, reaching 70 million homes and 41 million subscribers. Its Sunday Ticket programming with DirecTV offers exclusive out-of-market access to 14 games every Sunday for $249 a year, a price that has already alienated NFL die-hards, Mr. Harrad told the Associated Press.
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