DirecTV Sues Cox Over HD Ads

High-definition TV is in the courtroom yet again.

DirecTV filed a false-advertising lawsuit Wednesday against Cox Communications alleging the cable operator’s Internet ads contained “false and misleading statements” regarding the quality of the Cox high-definition TV service compared with the direct-broadcast satellite operator’s HD service.

The suit comes after DirecTV filed a similar action against Comcast in May, which is still pending. In that case, DirecTV charged that Comcast ran misleading HDTV print ads citing the results of a survey of satellite customers.

In the Cox lawsuit, DirecTV referred to a section of the cable company’s Web site,, which includes the headline “Cable Wins the HD Picture Challenge” and cites the results of the Comcast-commissioned survey.

That survey, conducted by research firm Frank N. Magid Associates, found that 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.”

DirecTV, in addition to disputing the original Magid survey, alleged it was “false and misleading to suggest the results of a study on Comcast’s HD picture support Cox’s claim that satellite viewers prefer cable HD.”

“There are substantial differences in the quality of high-definition service provided by various cable providers,” DirecTV said in its complaint. “Accordingly, the picture quality afforded by Comcast’s HD service cannot be deemed equivalent to that of Cox’s HD service.”

Cox declined to comment on the DirecTV lawsuit.

In June, Cox president Pat Esser, speaking at the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers’ Cable-Tec Expo, disclosed that the company planned to launch a comparative marketing campaign against satellite HDTV services. Asked then about DirecTV's false-advertising lawsuit against Comcast, Esser replied, “Well, that’s the response if you want to suppress the information.”

DirecTV’s suit against Cox, filed Oct. 17 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles, asks for an injunction blocking the Internet ads as well as unspecified monetary damages and attorneys’ fees.

In August, DirecTV settled another false-advertising lawsuit related to HDTV, with Time Warner Cable. The cable company had sued DirecTV, alleging that its 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.

Meanwhile, a status conference in the DirecTV-Comcast case, is currently scheduled for Dec. 5 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to set the case for trial.