Marketing

Biggest Cable Ops Reject Local Gun Ads

Comcast, TWC, Cox Don't Accept Such Messaging; Charter Evaluating Policy 2/24/2013 7:00 PM Eastern

WASHINGTON — The three largest cable companies all said they have prohibitions or limits on ads for guns and ammunition, and executives at a fourth are considering a similar move.

Comcast Spotlight, the ad-sales division of Comcast Cable, affirmed last week it would no longer accept gun ads, and said the policy also applies to ammunition. “This policy aligns us with the guidelines in place at many media organizations,” it said.

Washington’s current focus in the wake of the Dec. 14 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., is on the Second Amendment, not the First. While guns continue to abound in entertainment programming on cable and broadcast networks, though, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox Communications have all, to varying degrees, now eschewed advertising for the category.

The PR move won’t hurt their pocketbooks much. “It isn’t a material advertising category,” Pivotal Research Group analyst Brian Wieser said. “As an advertising category, it is probably one of the least important.” He pegged the spending at less than 1%, or “indistinguishable” from an economic standpoint.

Comcast’s move comes shortly after Time Warner Cable announced it would no longer be carrying certain types of gun ads, and in the wake of the Newtown shootings and pressure from the government for all sectors to seek ways to discourage gun violence.

Unlike Time Warner Cable, which banned ads for certain types of weapons and ammunition, the Comcast Spotlight move is a blanket prohibition on firearms and ammunition ads, said a source familiar with the policy. Spotlight sells local-operator ad time in roughly the top 50 cable networks in each market.

Cox said it didn’t have to make any recent adjustments. A Cox Media spokesperson said its policy, last updated in 2011, states: “The advertising of sporting rifles and its ammunition, handguns and its ammunition, or mailorder firearms and its ammunition is not acceptable.”

Fourth-ranked Charter Communications said its Charter Media sales unit does not prohibit gun ads, but executives are evaluating the option.

Cablevision Systems (the No. 5 operator) had not responded to requests for comment at press time.

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