Latest Comcast-DirecTV Skirmish Over Home-Theater-Installer Ads

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In the latest chapter of a legal soap opera, Comcast Monday asked a federal judge to issue a temporary restraining order to bar DirecTV from running a new flight of TV ads involving a survey of home-theater installers. The direct-broadcast satellite provider said it’s already stopped airing the spots.

Comcast filed its request in Chicago with the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Illinois, where DirecTV back in May filed a false-advertising suit against the nation’s largest cable operator. That case, which now includes a counterclaim by Comcast, is set to go to trial Oct. 22.

In papers filed Monday asking for the temporary restraining order, Comcast accused DirecTV of “outrageous conduct.” The cable operator said that based on representations from DirecTV, it believed the DBS provider was not going to air any new TV commercials with the claim that home-video professionals prefer or recommend DirecTV’s picture quality to cable.

Instead, Comcast claimed, DirecTV Monday morning rolled out a new TV commercial claiming, “Home-theater professionals recommend DirecTV picture quality 4-1 over cable.” Comcast maintained that this claim is false because the survey of installers it was based on was unreliable and the survey’s findings are being misrepresented.

On Tuesday, DirecTV filed papers denying it had done anything “outrageous” and arguing that there was “no emergency” that warranted the issuance of a temporary restraining order.

“The television advertisements that are the subject of Comcast’s TRO motion … were limited to a few local markets and, in all events, have been ordered stopped so as not to permit Comcast an opportunity to create a mountain out of the proverbial molehill,” DirecTV said in its filing. “So this is a moot issue.”

DirecTV’s lawyer tried to convey this to Comcast’s counsel, to no avail, the DBS provider’s papers said.

Comcast, in turn, Tuesday filed an answer to DirecTV’s opposition to any restraining order regarding the ads it said the satellite provider “snuck on the air.” Comcast said that even though DirecTV has stopped its new ads, its conduct proved that it can’t be trusted to act in good faith.

Unless DirecTV agrees to a stipulation that it won’t run any more ads based on the installer study until the October trial, the court should grant Comcast’s request for a retraining order, the cable company argued, saying, “Enough is enough.”

And as for DirecTV’s comment that the ads were pulled, in its papers, Comcast said, “That representation does not say who ordered whom to do what, what authority the person has to make such an order, or what assurances the court has that the order will be respected.”

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