Skip to main content

Comcast Call: Super Bowl Porn A 'Malicious' Act

It was suddenly Super Bowl "XXX" for an unknown number of Comcast subscribers in Tucson, Ariz., watching Feb. 1's Big Game, when they were exposed to a 30-second clip from Playboy Enterprises' Shorteez pay-per-view porn channel.

The material -- which reportedly showed the genitalia of male porn star Evan Stone -- popped up in the standard-definition feed of NBC affiliate KVOA-TV on the Comcast system, immediately after Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald scored a touchdown lifting his squad to a 23-20 lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers with less than three minutes to go in the game. The HD version was unaffected.

As a goodwill gesture, Comcast offered a $10 credit to Tucson subscribers "impacted" by the porn.

"We can't undo what happened, but we remain deeply sorry for the impact this situation has had on our customers," Kelle Maslyn, Comcast's Tucson corporate-affairs manager, said in a statement.

The footballus interruptus became an instant source of amusement across the Internet, rivaling the Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction" five years ago.

Comcast ruled out equipment failure as the cause of the incident but at press time, had not publicly identified the perpetrators. The MSO said it was investigating what it called an "isolated, malicious act."

One cable engineer, who asked for anonymity and had no direct knowledge of the Comcast incident, said it was possible -- but very unlikely -- that someone had hacked into the system's HFC plant outside the headend and spliced in the porn. That, however, would require fairly sophisticated equipment and knowledge of the system's configuration, he added, so it was far more likely that the offending video was inserted at the headend.

KVOA was flooded with viewers calling to complain, and the station quickly fingered Comcast.

"When the NBC feed of the Super Bowl was transmitted from KVOA to local cable providers and through over-the-air antennas, there was no pornographic material," KVOA president and general manager Gary Nielsen said in a statement posted on the station's site. "We are appalled this highly inappropriate material was displayed for some Comcast customers."

Comcast Tucson receives the KVOA feed through an arrangement with Cox Communications, but Mike Dunne, Cox director of media relations for southern Arizona, said no porn was broadcast to his company's customers.

It's not the first time X-rated material has escaped a cable system's protective fencing. In 2007, Comcast broadcast porn to subscribers in New Jersey during an episode of the Disney Channel children's show Handy Manny.

"These 'accidents' seem to happen more often than they should, and if it truly was an accident, why is it always porn that's aired?" Parents Television Council president Tim Winter wondered in a press statement. "TV station 'accidents' never include a rerun of The Cosby Show."