Comcast filed a lawsuit against DirecTV yesterday, alleging that the satellite TV company "falsely advertises that its consumers are going to see football 'free' this season," according to Eriq Gardner of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. In the suit filed in Illinois federal court, Comcast writes, "In the wake of the recent resolution of the NFL's labor dispute, defendant DirecTV has launched a multi-million-dollar multimedia advertising campaign, baiting consumers with the claim that DirecTV's popular NFL Sunday Ticket service -- which ordinarily costs hundreds of dollars per year -- is currently available for 'free' or at 'no extra charge.' Unfortunately for consumers the claim of 'free' is an outright lie." Comcast notes DirecTV's Sunday Ticket offer "requires a two-year contract with hefty termination fees for early cancellation," with the service automatically renewing for the second season "at full price." The MSO also charges DirecTV with "falsely disparaging cable television service generally -- and, by clear implication, Comcast's cable services specifically." Comcast in the suit points out that DirecTV says "in its advertisements that cable subscribers can only see a single NFL game each Sunday during the NFL season." Comcast is "seeking DirecTV's profits resulting from allegedly misleading misrepresentations, exemplary and punitive damages, legal costs, and an injunction" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 8/4).
NFL, TIME WARNER TALKING: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that the league and Time Warner Cable, the second-largest cable distributor in the country, are “negotiating an affiliate agreement.” Goodell said, “We’re trying to get that done. We believe it’s good for the fans, we think it’s good for Time Warner and we believe the market’s been set.” ADWEEK.com’s Anthony Crupi reports the news comes “just days after NFL Network hashed out a deal with Charter Communications, the nation’s fourth-largest cable operator and sixth-largest carrier.” The developments come after Goodell last September during an NFL.com chat “took Time Warner to task, saying that the MSO remained ‘unwilling to reach an agreement to carry the NFL Network on terms that are fair and reasonable and consistent with other distributors.’” Crupi notes a solution in the carriage standoff “may lie in bilateral compromise.” TWC could offer “to carry NFL Network on a more widely distributed basic digital package, in exchange for a reduced rate -- perhaps a little as 50 cents per sub” (ADWEEK.com, 8/4). Goodell said, “We believe in the NFL Network. We think the fans want to see the NFL Network. The reaction we get from our fans is extraordinarily positive and we believe it’s good for their customers. So when we’re negotiating with our distributors, we believe it should be in every home. And we’re going to continue to push that because it’s good for football and it’s good for the people who love football” (NFL.com, 8/3).
HBO and Showtime execs "should learn by the weekend which network will televise the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez pay-per-view fight Nov. 12 in Las Vegas," according to Keith Idec of BOXINGSCENE.com. Top Rank Chair Bob Arum said, "Our goal is that we'll vote on it by the end of the week." The company is "weighing two strong offers for the broadcast rights, which has made the decision difficult." Arum said the package HBO has offered is "something a year ago that nobody would've dreamed of." Arum: "If it was still the same (nonsense), we wouldn't even be debating it." Idec reported the pitch includes "offering to use more of parent company Time Warner's vast television, print and Internet assets in the wake of losing Pacquiao's last fight to rival Showtime." The HBO package also means that Showtime does not necessarily have "an advantage over HBO this time around, especially since HBO's head honchos have played a large role in trying to lure the Filipino superstar back to their network." Arum "began dealing with them even before longtime HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg announced his resignation July 18." Arum said, "What happened was that the leaders of HBO, not the people in HBO Sports, the guys who really run HBO -- Michael Lombardo (programming president) and Richard Plepler (co-president) -- really got involved" (BOXINGSCENE.com, 8/3).
Turner Sports is putting a heavy emphasis on interactive content in its plans for TNT's coverage of next week's PGA Championship from the Atlanta Athletic Club. The net will employ this strategy in an effort to complement its TV airtime on digital outlets as well as to reach fans who are away from their sets. Turner Sports Senior VP & GM Matt Hong said, "We continue to be multiplatform, and really behind multiplatform we just want to make sure we're ubiquitous." An example of increased interactivity is the "360 Degree Camera" feature within the PGA Championship Live video player on PGA.com. Users can use this to control camera angles and positions during live action. Hong likened it to some real estate websites that allow users to see every angle of a property. Also new this year is a "Snap & Share" tool allowing users to create their own highlights and share them on social networks. In terms of additions to the TV presentation, the net's on-air talent will have access to a "Magic Wall" digital touchscreen, similar to those used during CNN shows and Turner's NCAA men's basketball coverage earlier this year. The PGA Championship iPhone app will be entirely free this year thanks to a sponsorship activation by Mercedes-Benz. The app debuted in '09 for $1.99 and last year was released as a free version with an optional $1.99 upgrade for video. TNT will air Thursday's and Friday's rounds, plus early coverage Saturday and Sunday before CBS takes over after 2:00pm ET.
ACROSS THE UNIVERSE: Turner Sports operates PGA.com in partnership with the PGA Of America, similar to its relationship with Golf.com and the PGA Tour for its official site. Hong noted Turner also has a content providing and ad sales relationship with Yahoo Golf, allowing the media company to "synergize content" and "sell to sponsors across all four sites." All four sites will feature the same live video.
The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin wrote under the header, "Jury Still Out On NHL Shunning ESPN." It is "still an open question whether NHL commissioner Gary Bettman's gambit of taking his league" from ESPN to Versus in '05 is a "success or not." Dowbiggin: "Even as confirmation emerges this week of Versus morphing to NBC Sports Channel come January, it's an open question whether shunning the World Wide Leader was a plus or a bust in the U.S." But the NHL "got more money" from Versus, the "visibility issue with ESPN2 was a wash, and now there is the hope that NBC's diverse universe of TV channels and web platforms can deliver more than ESPN." Dowbiggin concluded that Bettman's "stand" against former ESPN Exec VP/Programming & Production Mark Shapiro "finally has paid off in modest fashion" (GLOBESPORTS.com, 8/3).
COLORFUL OUTLOOK: NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke yesterday said that NBCU's "recent long-term Olympics rights deal would be profitable over the term of the agreement and prove to be 'a smart investment.'" Meanwhile, when asked if the "weak economy and U.S. debt crisis have affected the advertising market," Burke said, "We don't see any signs of a deceleration" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 8/3).
GOING DIGITAL: In N.Y., Keith Kelly reports Time Inc. "will make all 21 of its magazines available on Apple's iPad and across a variety of tablet devices by year-end, making it the first major publisher to have tablet editions for all its titles." Time already "has four titles -- Time, Sports Illustrated, People and Fortune -- on an 'all access' system." The company said that it "has sold more than 600,000 single copies of the original four titles." But it "still refuses to allow subscriptions to be sold via Apple's iTunes" (N.Y. POST, 8/4).
EYE ON ITS VIEWERS: DAILY VARIETY's Andrew Wallenstein reported CBS "has developed a new research tool with Nielsen Co. intended to give both the network and its advertisers a deeper understanding of its audience beyond basic demographics." The net used its Television Critics Association presentation yesterday to "share the results of a survey of unusually comprehensive scope -- 7,000 respondents answered more than 150 questions about their media habits in late 2010 and early 2011." The findings were "used to create a taxonomy of six basic types of viewers that can be cross-indexed with Nielsen data encompassing TV and online to yield psychographic insights." Advertisers "can take this research to as granular a level as identifying which groups over-index among a particular program and marry that information to other consumption habits that mark viewers of that program" (VARIETY.com, 8/3).