DirecTV must change its spots

Judge nixes pair of satcaster's study-based HD ads

In the war over whose advertising might be less misleading, Comcast Corp. is beating DirecTV Group.

The two have been engaged in a court battle in which they have charged each other with false advertising, and Comcast logged another victory last week when a judge told DirecTV that it can't cite a couple of studies that claim their HD is better than Comcast's.

DirecTV had been boasting of favorable results from a TNS survey, though a judge said the survey, rather disingenuously, compared a DirecTV digital signal to an analog signal.

The TNS survey results were being used in a DirecTV commercial that spoofed the movie "American Pie."

Another ad, spoofing the TV series "Baywatch," cited a survey from Alliance Consulting Group of professional home-theater installers that claimed they preferred the picture quality of DirecTV over cable, though the judge deemed that one unfair as well.

Meanwhile, Comcast has been citing a Frank N. Magid Associates study that found 66% of consumers who are exposed to HD from Comcast and DirecTV prefer Comcast. The figure rises to 70% when Comcast is compared to Dish Network.

DirecTV asked a judge for an injunction against the Comcast-Magid survey ads, though a judge denied that request.

Time Warner Cable also had objected to DirecTV ads, though a false-advertising lawsuit involving the parties has since been settled.

Last week's ruling from U.S. District Judge John Grady said that DirecTV must "immediately cease and refrain in any territory in which Comcast provides cable television" advertising any claims stemming from the TNS or Alliance Consulting Group surveys.

The judge said the order does not require DirecTV to recall or retract ads already disseminated.

"We are quite perplexed by the court's conclusions," a DirecTV spokesman said. "The facts simply don't support these decisions. We will appeal these rulings and are confident we will ultimately prevail."

DirecTV can take some solace, though, in that its legal setbacks came the same week that a J.D. Power and Associates report ranked it highest among satellite and cable TV providers in customer satisfaction throughout most of the country.