DirecTV Dodges Comcast’s Blitz on TV Ads

     CHICAGO (CN) – DirecTV can keep broadcasting ads for its NFL package, despite a lawsuit in which Comcast claims the ads deliberately mislead consumers, a federal judge ruled.
     U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo denied Comcast’s request for a temporary restraining order on Tuesday.
     Comcast filed an irate, 70-page federal complaint last week, claiming DirecTV’s national advertising campaign was intended to mislead football fans.
     Comcast claims that DirecTV falsely advertised that its “NFL Sunday Ticket” package was “free.” Comcast claimed DirecTV failed to disclose that it was a mandatory 2-year contract with second-year charges and termination fees for early cancellation. The service automatically renews the second year at full price.
     “DirecTV’s strategy could hardly be more clear – capitalize on enthusiasm for an assured NFL season, claim to offer a costly premium service for ‘free,’ and get as many cable subscribers to switch to DirecTV before they realize they are trapped in a two-year – and decidedly nonfree – deal,” Comcast’s complaint states.
     Comcast also claimed that DirecTV disparaged its cable competitors, including Comcast, by falsely claiming that cable subscribers can see only one NFL game each Sunday.
     Comcast seeks punitive damages for false advertising, consumer fraud, deceptive trade and unfair competition. It wants DirecTV ordered to correct its ads, and enjoined from using the terms “no extra charge” and “free” and “all other false, misleading, and deceptive statements described in this complaint” and wants all the profits DirecTV got from its ad campaign.
     DirecTV stepped up its ad campaign after the NFL labor dispute was settled. The nationwide campaign on TV, radio, and Internet ads features Deion Sanders as the “Football Fairy,” and hype DirecTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket.
     But for now, DirecTV appears to have dodged the attack.
     DirecTV Senior Vice President of Advertising and Communications, Jon Gieselman, said in a statement, “We’re happy to go head-to-head with Comcast any day on whose service is superior. We look forward to competing in the marketplace rather than the courtroom.”
     An evidentiary hearing will be held on Aug. 24 on Comcast’s request for a permanent injunction.

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