BBB National Programs Archive

NAD Reviews Advertising For Comcast HD Following Challenge By Directv

New York, NY – June 4, 2009 – In a review of advertising claims made by Comcast Corporation for its High Definition service, the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (NAD) has determined that certain claims made by Comcast for its HD service require clarification, although Comcast could support certain claims.

NAD, the advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, examined claims made by Comcast in broadcast and Internet advertising and at the Comcast Website, following a challenge by DIRECTV.

In its decision, NAD noted that DIRECTV and Comcast “have created valuable but different services providing HD content – DIRECTV currently offers the most HD channels and Comcast, by combining its HD channels and HD On Demand library, currently offers the broadest selection of HD programming.”

However, NAD determined that, at this point in time, Comcast advertisements making unqualified “More HD” claims can be interpreted in several ways and consequently require further disclosure to avoid consumer confusion.

NAD determined that Comcast could support certain claims, but recommended that Comcast modify or discontinue certain advertising claims for the company’s High Definition programming and Digital Cable Services to clarify that Comcast’s “choices” include both HD channels and its HD On Demand library.

“As a preliminary matter, NAD noted that that Comcast had permanently discontinued four commercials (which focused on the reliability of DIRECTV in inclement weather) and an Internet banner advertisement that referenced high definition (HD) claims, prior to NAD’s inquiry,” the decision stated. Consequently, in accordance with NAD/NARB Procedures (2.2)(B)(1)(d), NAD determined that it did not have jurisdiction over the discontinued advertisements and therefore did not review those advertisements on the merits.

The remaining claims served as the basis for NAD’s inquiry:

Television Commercials

  • “More HD”
  • “Comcast has more HD than satellite. More HD than anyone.”
  • “More HD choices”
  • “More HD Options”
  • “You might think DIRECTV has more HD than Comcast but you’re wrong!”

Internet Advertisements

  • “More HD”
  • “More HD any time you want it”
  • “You think you’re getting the most HD with DIRECTV but you’re not.”
    • “Comcast gives me almost all my channels that I watch in HD … DIRECTV didn’t give me that, it was more the exception than the rule”
    • “I like HD, I spent all the extra money on an HD TV … I want HD … having all the extra channels [with Comcast] you notice the difference…”

Website

  • “More HD”
  • “[Comcast has] More HD than satellite. More HD than anyone.”
  • “Over 500/1000 HD choices available at any given time”
  • “More than 5x the HD options of DIRECTV, more than anyone

Regarding the remaining advertisements, NAD noted that differences in the HD-focused competitive strategies employed by (and HD related services offered by) Comcast and DIRECTV lay the foundation for the current challenge.

The claims at issue in NAD’s inquiry compared the amount of HD programming available through Comcast to the amount of HD programming available through DIRECTV and satellite. In particular, the claims promote Comcast’s service as having “More HD,” “More HD than anyone. More than Satellite,” “Comcast always has more HD,” “More HD Choices” and “More HD Options.”

NAD determined that, to the extent Comcast provides a service or product that DIRECTV or other satellite providers do not offer (such as the ability to access more than 1000 HD choices as part of Comcast’s On Demand services), Comcast has the right to advertise this fact. However, NAD agreed with the challenger that the relevant inquiry in the case is whether or not a reasonable consumer would be likely to interpret the advertiser’s use of phrases like “More HD,” “More HD Options” and “More HD Choices” in the context of the challenged advertisements to mean that Comcast offers more HD channels than DIRECTV, a claim both parties agreed was false.

Following its review of the evidence, NAD determined that DIRECTV currently offers the most HD channels and Comcast, by combining its HD channels and HD On Demand library, currently offers the broadest selection of HD programming. NAD also determined that “claims like ‘More HD Choices’ or ‘More HD Options’ is a logical way to describe the combination of linear HD channels and HD content On Demand available to Comcast subscribers.”  However, NAD also found that, depending on the context in which such claims appear, they could also be reasonably interpreted to mean “More HD channels” – as the challenger argued. NAD recommended that that the advertiser modify five separate commercials to avoid consumer confusion.

NAD also examined a series of Internet advertisements referred to as “HD Interventions.” NAD recommended that the advertiser modify the advertising to clearly and expressly disclose that the superior content “More HD” claim is based on a comparison of DIRECTV HD channels versus the combination of Comcast HD channels and Comcast HD On Demand programming.

With respect to the follow-up consumer interviews linked to each intervention commercial, NAD determined that that one of the five – the Mike Sweeney interview – conveyed the message that Comcast has more HD channels than DIRECTV, a claim which is not supported by the evidence in the record. Consequently, NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue this commercial.

NAD further recommended that, in its Website advertising, the advertiser modify comparisons to DIRECTV to clearly and expressly disclose that such comparisons are based on a comparison between DIRECTV HD channels and a combination of the Comcast HD channel lineup and Comcast HD content On Demand.

The company noted that, while Comcast “respectfully disagrees with the basis for certain of NAD’s recommendations, Comcast will take them into account in future advertising. Comcast appreciates NAD’s careful consideration of the issues in this matter.”