NAD Recommends Charter Discontinue One Commercial Regarding DirecTV’s Sports Programming, But Finds Support for Another Regarding its Technician Service Calls Fee.

New York, NY – Nov. 27, 2018 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that Charter Communications provider of cable television service discontinue a commercial challenged by satellite television service provider DIRECTV, LLC following NAD’s finding that it conveyed the unsupported message that DIRECTV does not offer certain names sports programming.

However, NAD found that Charter’s claims in a second commercial, was supported by the evidence in the record demonstrating that, per the DIRECTV Residential Customer Agreement, customers will incur a $99 charge if a technician is dispatched to the home to resolve a service issue.

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

DIRECTV challenged express and implied advertising claims in Charter’s “Bad Deals” commercial that included:

  • “DIRECTV SELECT Double Play package … with no ESPN … CBS Sports … or NBC Sports.”
  • “No popular sports channels”
  • DIRECTV customers cannot get popular sports channels, while Spectrum customers can.

Charter’s “Bad Deals” spot depicts a DIRECTV salesman at a homeowner’s doorstep. He begins his sales pitch, offering the homeowner the “DIRECTV Select Double Play package with no ESPN.” When the homeowner declines, the salesman “sweetens the deal” by offering “no CBS Sports Network, no NBC Sports Network.” Again, the homeowner declines whereupon the salesman offers an even worse deal. When the homeowner again turns him down, the salesman states, “I see is someone who wants to play hardball.  OK batter up! I’ll give you no popular sports channels, the early termination fees AND I’ll add deeply disappointing AT&T Internet…”  The homeowner closes the front door on the salesman.

Following its review of the claims, NAD found that Charter’s “Bad Deals” commercial reasonably conveyed the unsupported message that all DIRECTV programming packages do not offer the sports channels/programming mentioned in the spot, not just that the DIRECTV Select Double Play package does not offer this programming.

NAD determined that the singular mention of the DIRECTV Select Double Play package at the very top of the commercial was insufficient to limit the overarching message that specific sport channels is not available from DIRECTV to only one programming package. NAD also noted that the salesman’s inability to offer any subsequent deals that were any better leads to the reasonable consumer takeaway that DIRECTV has nothing in the way of sports channels or programming to offer the homeowner.

NAD recommended that the “Bad Deals” commercial be either discontinued or sufficiently modified to limit the claim to the specific DIRECTV Select package and avoid conveying the message that all DIRECTV packages do not provide the sports channels/programming mentioned.

DIRECTV also challenged express and implied claims in Charter’s “Monsters BBQ,” commercial that included:

  • “Automatic charge” of $99 for any repair or service issue, no matter how trivial, in which “someone shows up” and “even if they don’t find anything.”

Charter’s commercial utilized the humorous interaction among iconic movie monsters – a werewolf, his werewolf wife, a mummy, a vampire – at a backyard cookout to criticize DIRECTV’s $99 charge for a technician’s service call to the werewolf couple’s house. The wife states that “the DIRECTV guy finally shows up. Turns out the dish’s wires were loose.  Cost us 99 bucks!” Her husband states that it’s an “Automatic Charge” as the wife adds, “it’s in the contract!” The husband and other monsters then describe increasingly outrageous hypothetical scenarios necessitating a repair. With each hypothetical, they ask the wife if the fee would apply. Each time, she confirms that each scenario would incur a $99 charge. She finally exclaims, “guys, guys, if someone shows up … 99 bucks! Even if they don’t find anything!” The husband asks, “but [what if] a family of squirrels holds a party up there?” His wife responds, “Oh then it’s 98 bucks.” The Mummy asks, “Really?” and the Werewolf Wife exclaims “No! $99!” As the Mummy explains that he’s always been a gullible person, the voiceover states, “Automatic charges are evil.  Spectrum doesn’t have them. DIRECTV Bad. Spectrum Good.”

Following its review of the claims, NAD concluded that the advertiser’s “Monster’s BBQ” commercial was unlikely to be interpreted by consumers as meaning that customers will incur a $99 charge for any service issue whatsoever, no matter how trivial.  Rather, NAD concluded, the commercial reasonably conveys the message that the satellite provider’s customers will incur a $99 charge if a technician is dispatched to the home (“if someone shows up”) to resolve a service issue—a claim that was supported by the challenger’s Residential Customer Agreement.

In its advertiser’s statement, Charter stated that it will comply with NAD’s recommendations.

Note: A recommendation by NAD to modify or discontinue a claim is not a finding of wrongdoing and an advertiser’s voluntary discontinuance or modification of claims should not be construed as an admission of impropriety. It is the policy of NAD not to endorse any company, product, or service. Decisions finding that advertising claims have been substantiated should not be construed as endorsements.