Comcast and DirecTV Settle HDTV Lawsuit

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DirecTV and Comcast have agreed to call off their high-definition lawyers.

The parties have settled all claims and counterclaims related to DirecTV’s May lawsuit that alleged a consumer survey Comcast used in a comparative ad campaign was false and misleading.

While the specific terms of the settlement are confidential, the agreement lets Comcast continue to cite that survey, according to Comcast senior director of corporate communications Jenni Moyer. “We’re pleased that we’ve settled the outstanding litigation on a basis that is mutually satisfactory,” she said.

Asked to comment, DirecTV spokesman Darris Gringeri also said the company was “pleased” with the outcome.

The DirecTV lawsuit, filed in Chicago in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, cited Comcast’s print ads that carried the headline: “Comcast Wins the HD Picture Challenge. Satellite customers agree: HD looks better with Comcast.”

The survey in question was commissioned by Comcast and conducted by research firm Frank N. Magid Associates. According to the survey, when satellite customers were shown a Comcast HD picture next to a DirecTV or Dish Network HD picture, two-thirds of those who expressed a preference said Comcast delivered “a better HD image.”

DirecTV, in its original suit, asserted that the survey did not “provide or sufficiently substantiate the propositions for which Comcast cites the survey” and therefore were “literally false.”

Comcast stood by the survey, and said that two outside companies validated the Magid findings: consulting firm Accenture, which oversaw the technical aspects of the test, and law firm Loeb & Loeb provided legal guidance on the survey process.

After DirecTV’s initial suit, Comcast filed a counterclaim against DirecTV in June complaining that two DirecTV anti-cable ads were false and misleading, including one featuring Baywatch star Pamela Anderson.

The Baywatch spot referenced a DirecTV-sponsored survey that found three out of four home-theater installers preferred DirecTV’s picture quality over cable. Comcast won an injunction in August barring DirecTV from running those ads.

As part of the settlement, disclosed in a Dec. 19 filing with the Illinois court, Comcast was released from its obligation to post $500,000 bond that would have covered expenses incurred by DirecTV if the court found it was wrongfully restrained.

Separately, DirecTV last week reached an out-of-court settlement with Cox Communications on the false-advertising lawsuit the satellite company filed over claims on Cox’s Web site – headlined “Cable Wins the HD Picture” – that cited the Comcast-commissioned Magid survey. Since DirecTV filed the lawsuit Oct. 17, Cox had removed references to the Magid survey from its site.

Both Comcast and Cox agreements come after DirecTV had settled yet another lawsuit involving HDTV claims, this one with Time Warner Cable.

In that case, settled in August, Time Warner Cable had sued DirecTV, alleging DirecTV ads falsely claimed the satellite operator had “an HD picture that can’t be beat” and that DirecTV would “soon” have three times the HD capacity of cable.

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