NFL Today, Take II: Network Modifies Ads


The battle between the NFL and Time Warner over carriage of the NFL Network is hotter than Washington in August, with the two sides exchanging blows like a couple of linemen when the referee's back is turned.

The NFL, which launched an aggressive marketing campaign to gain carriage on Time Warner systems, has modified some print and radio ads after Time Warner complained they misled readers and listeners, though the NFL disputes the cause and effect implied. One ad said: "If You Don't Get NFL Network, You'll Miss NFL Games"

"Yesterday, we asked the NFL Network to stop running false and deceptive print, radio and TV advertisements that imply Time Warner Cable customers will be unable to see home team games," Time Warner said in a statement, "As you know, this is not true since the NFL is licensing local games to broadcast stations.  In response, the NFL Network has agreed to correct their advertising by adding a statement in the ads advising that the telecasts will be available on broadcast television in the participant teams' local markets.

THe NFL disputed that characterization and said it will "continue to run advertising that makes clear that Time Warner customers will miss NFL games that are available to customers of their competitors." But it also isn't interested in adding a lawsuit, with or without merit, to the list of contentious issues between the two.

In a letter from the NFL's lawyers to Time Warner Chief Counsel Michael Quinn, the network said the ads are "entirely truthful," and violate no consumer protection laws. "Nevertheless," NFL says, "we will be happy to add, on a rolling basis, a statement in the advertisements advising that the telecast will be available on broadcast television in the participants' teams' local markets subject to blackout restrictions."

The lawyers also countered that Time Warner ads in Dallas with the headline "Don't Worry Cowboys Fans, you won't Miss a Single Game," are misleading "in suggesting that Time Warner subscribers will not miss any NFL games when, in fact, there is no question that they will miss a number of the games telecast on NFL Network."

But speaking of referees, on another front, Time Warner is still mulling whether to take the FCC to court over its order to restore the NFL Network to Time Warner systems it just acquired from Adelphia and Comcast, which had been carrying the net.