DirecTV, Cox Settle HDTV Lawsuit

DirecTV and Cox Communications settled the false-advertising lawsuit the satellite operator filed over Cox’s assertion that “HD looks better with cable,” after the cable company removed the claim from its Web site.

In the suit, filed in October, DirecTV alleged Cox made “false and misleading statements” in citing a Comcast-commissioned survey regarding the quality of Cox’s HDTV service compared with DirecTV’s.

A section of Cox’s Web site had previously carried the headline “Cable Wins the HD Picture Challenge” and cited the results of a Comcast survey conducted by research firm Frank N. Magid Associates. According to the survey, in side-by-side comparisons “two-thirds of satellite customers expressing a preference between Comcast and DirecTV and between Comcast and Dish Network said Comcast delivered a better HD image.”

Since DirecTV filed the lawsuit Oct. 17, Cox has removed references to the Magid survey from its site. The only benefit the operator now touts over satellite services' HDTV services is that Cox customers have “no ugly dish or extra equipment to buy” to receive HD programming.

“The matter was resolved on terms mutually acceptable to the parties,” DirecTV director of public relations Robert Mercer said in an e-mailed statement.

Asked to comment, Cox director of media relations David Grabert said the terms of the settlement were confidential.

Cox still lists “Top 10 Satellite Myths” on its site but doesn’t refer to the Comcast HDTV survey.

DirecTV filed suit against Cox in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles. On Dec. 10, DirecTV filed a notice of dismissal with prejudice with court, meaning the company cannot sue again on the same claim.

Separately, DirecTV in May filed a similar lawsuit against Comcast over the cable company’s print ads based on the Magid survey. DirecTV alleged the survey doesn’t “sufficiently substantiate” Comcast’s advertising claims. Comcast has said it stands by the results of the survey and is challenging the suit. The case is still pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, and the presiding judge has set a hearing for Jan. 9.

In the Cox case, DirecTV said, regardless of the merits of the survey, Cox’s claims were false and misleading in suggesting that “results of a study on Comcast’s HD picture support Cox’s claim that satellite viewers prefer cable HD.”

In August, DirecTV settled a false-advertising lawsuit filed by Time Warner Cable, also related to HDTV picture-quality claims. The cable company had alleged DirecTV ads falsely claimed the satellite operator had “an HD picture that can’t be beat” and that DirecTV would “soon” have three times the HD capacity of cable.