NARB Recommends DirecTV Better Disclose to Consumers Availability of 4K Content, Discontinue ‘Free Upgrade’ to Genie HD DVR Claim

New York, NY – Sept. 13 ,  2016 – A panel of the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) has recommended that DirecTV, LLC, modify claims made for its satellite television services to better disclose to consumers that limited programming is available in 4k, or ultra high-definition format, modify its claims that DirecTV is wireless, and discontinue a “free upgrade” to Genie HD DVR claim.

NARB is the appellate unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation and administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

Advertising claims made by DirecTV were initially challenged by Charter Communications, Inc., a competing provider of television services, before the National Advertising Division. Challenged claims included:

  • “DIRECTV has 4K, the best picture format available.”
  • “DIRECTV is wireless. So you can put your TVs anywhere without having to look at ugly wires and boxes in every room.”
  • “Say goodbye to messy cable wires and boxes. Enjoy entertainment wirelessly on every TV in your home.”
  • Advertised price of $19.99/month
  • “FREE upgrade” to Genie HD DVR

Following its review, NAD found that the claims reasonably communicated messages that were not supported by the evidence in the record and recommended that the advertiser either discontinue the claims or modify them to:

  • Address the developing nature of 4K technology and indicate that currently only a small amount of programming is available in 4K
  • Specify the actual device that is wireless and clarify references to wires and boxes
  • Make clear that the $19.99 per month charge is for base programming, and disclose that the 4K and wireless features are not included in this charge

NAD also recommended that DirecTV discontinue its “Free upgrade” claim for the Genie HD DVR because DirecTV charges its customers a $15/month fee to use the device.

Following its review, the panel agreed with the NAD’s determination that the challenged advertisement reasonably conveyed the message that DirecTV offers a substantial amount of programming in 4K. However, the panel did not agree with NAD’s recommended modification, noting its belief “that reasonable consumers, who have already experienced many technological advances including the transition from standard definition (SD) to high definition (HD) television, will understand the nature of developing technologies and the fact that 4K is a relatively new technology.” The panel said that it would be sufficient for DirecTV to clearly and conspicuously disclose the limited programming available in 4K.

The panel emphasized that an acceptable disclosure needs to be much clearer than the one appearing in the challenged advertisement and should “clearly and simply convey that limited programming is available in 4K.”

The panel also noted that an acceptable disclosure would need to be “significantly more conspicuous.”

The disclosure in the challenged advertisement was not conspicuous because of its size, print color, length of time appearing on the screen, and distracting elements on the screen at the time the disclosure is displayed. An acceptable disclaimer should be sufficiently prominent, and should appear on the screen for a long enough period, so that consumers will notice it and read it, the panel said.

The panel further recommended that DirecTV modify its advertising to clearly and conspicuously disclose that the $19.99 per month charge is a minimum programming charge and that there are additional monthly costs for required equipment and fees. Other material terms relating to the price, such as its availability only for the first 12 months of the required 24 month agreement, should also be clearly and conspicuously disclosed, the panel said.

The panel also recommended that DirecTV modify its wireless claims to more clearly and conspicuously explain what device is wireless and avoid any statement or implication that DirecTV is Finally, the panel recommended that DirecTV discontinue the challenged free upgrade claim.

DirecTV, in its advertiser’s statement, thanked NARB for its “thoughtful revision of NAD’s recommendations regarding DirecTV’s 4K content disclosures. Although it respectfully disagrees with NARB’s other findings, DirecTV is a strong supporter of the advertising self-regulatory system and will comply with NARB’s recommendations in future advertising.”