Time Warner Cable Rejects HDTV Antenna Maker's Ad

Time Warner Cable rejected an ad from Mohu, a small producer of HDTV antennas, which said TV viewers "don't need expensive cable service to watch HD programs."

Brian Baucom, Mohu's vice president of marketing, said TWC rejected a 30-second ad his company tried to place with the cable company in Columbus, Ohio, and Kansas City, Mo., within the past week.

"It was straightforward -- it's a direct-response ad," Baucom said. "The public doesn't know you can get the top 20 shows on broadcast and you don't need cable."

Time Warner Cable said it rejected the ad because it advertised a competitive product. "It is our general policy to not take ads that directly compete with our broadband, video and voice services," the cable operator said in a statement, adding that other MSOs had declined to take the ad.

Mohu selected Columbus and Kansas City based on those markets' demographics, as an initial test of TV advertising leading up to its broader retail launch. Baucom denied that Mohu tried to place the ad with TWC knowing it would be rejected. He said ad rates at local TV stations were too high for his budget, so the company wanted to try cable.

"When a cable company is in a certain area, I don't have an alternative," he said.

Mohu's ad says that using the $44.99 antenna, customers can watch National Football League games and other broadcast network programming "in better HD quality than cable or Dish," and that "most top-rated shows are broadcast to you free, over the air in full high definition." The ad is available here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNtll-4fiis.

Mohu launched the flexible, "paper-thin" 9-ounce Leaf antenna in April 2011, and it's now listed as the top-selling HDTV antenna on Amazon.com. The company has sold more than 10,000 via Amazon.com and several thousand more through its website, according to Baucom.

Privately held Mohu, based in Raleigh, N.C., was spun out of GreenWave Scientific, which develops antennas for the U.S. military.

In a statement, Mohu president Mark Buff said, "Of course we wanted to run the commercial on cable just like DirectTV or other satellite companies run their ads. And we thought we should have the right to."