NBCU Declines to Air SlingTV Ads on Four O&O Stations

Comcast’s NBC Universal is declining to air a series of advertisements from Dish Networks’ Sling TV over-the-top service, a practice the satellite company claims is proof that the service is touching a nerve with operators.

An NBCU spokesperson confirmed that its owned and operated stations in New York, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., have declined to air the spots, but would not comment further.

In a blog posting, Sling TV CEO Roger Lynch said Sling TV ads are running across owned & operated stations and affiliates of ABC, CBS, and Fox, as well as independently owned NBC affiliates.

The ads are part of SlingTV’s new ad campaign, dubbed “Take Back TV,” which was launched on July 20. The company has aired three spots targeted at millennials where the pay-TV provider is depicted by a series of kid bullies who force customers to sign long term contracts, pay for channels they don’t watch and offer poor customer service. 

It should be noted that while the spots have shown up on ABC, CBS and Fox, those three networks don’t own distribution and therefore don’t compete with Sling TV. Comcast in contrast, owns the largest cable operator in the country with about 22.4 million customers. Other media companies have refused to carry ads from competitors in the past – in 2007 News Corp. pulled ads by business cable network CNBC from the websites of the Wall Street Journal after the company launched a rival business channel, Fox Business Network.

At the time, News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch said pulling the ads was well within its rights – its channels didn’t run ads for ABC, NBC or CBS either – but said it could have been perceived as “heavy handed.”

Fox has since split its programming and print operations in two, with its publishing unit housed in News Corp., and its broadcast, cable network and movie studio properties in 21st Century Fox. 

Sling’s Lynch sees Comcast’s refusal to air the ads is proof of the central premise of the ads – that traditional pay-TV players “don’t get it.”

In his blog, Lynch said it is the fact that traditional pay-TV providers don’t understand that innovation benefits customers.  

“Sling TV exists because we recognize the need for a new live TV model that is simple,” Lynch said. “Many of us are tired of long-term contracts, expensive programming bundles, high prices and poor customer service. Instead, we want TV on our terms. To come and go as we like. To watch great content, including sports, on the devices we own and use. And perhaps most importantly, we want rational pricing. This is what our new commercials call out. This is what Comcast doesn’t want you to see.”

Comcast could argue that the whole TV when you want it, where you want it and on whatever device you want it on, could be answered in part by its and other cable operators’ TV Everywhere initiative. Even satellite companies have embraced the authenticated approach to watching outside of the living room. But the rollout of TV Everywhere has been slower than expected and it only comes with a traditional pay-TV subscription. Sling TV, launched in February, includes about 20 core networks (including ESPN) for $20 per month. The streaming service, which is available on just one device per subscription, also has other tiers of networks available by genre (like news & entertainment, movies and sports) for an additional $5 per month.