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Comcast refutes conspiracy over ‘banned’ Sling TV ads

The Comcast logo is seen on a retail store in Sacramento, California on July 3, 2015. (Photo: Matthew Keys / The Desk)
The Comcast logo is seen on a retail store in Sacramento, California on July 3, 2015. (Photo: Matthew Keys / The Desk)

Comcast is not directing NBC stations owned by the cable giant to block advertisements solicited by Dish Network’s streaming TV service Sling TV, according to a spokesperson.

On Friday, Sling TV chief executive Roger Lynch accused the cable giant of wielding influence over four NBC stations — WRC-TV (Channel 4, Washington, D.C.), KNSD (Channel 39, San Diego) and KNTV (Channel 11, San Francisco) — in rejecting advertisements from its latest campaign.

Those ads feature preteens bullying customers of a company called “Old TV” into paying their bills on time and upgrading their subscription packages. Although there is no direct correlation between Old TV and Comcast, the latter has suffered from a less-than-stellar reputation when it comes to customer service, and in his blog post on Friday Lynch said Comcast was the “standard bearer for Old TV.”

Lynch said the ad campaign had been accepted on several broadcast television stations across the country, including those owned and operated by three of the four biggest TV networks: ABC (owned by Disney), CBS and FOX. Some NBC stations not owned by the network also agreed to run the ads, Lynch said, leaving Comcast-owned NBC stations as the outlier.

“Comcast has a demonstrated history of shutting down ideas it doesn’t like or understand, predictably to its benefit and at the expense of consumers,” Lynch wrote.

But in an e-mail to The Desk on Saturday, Comcast executive Shawn Feddeman said the decision to reject the ads rested solely with the sales department at NBC local stations and that the cable giant did not influence their decision one way or another.

“The decision to decline the ads was made exclusively by the NBC-owned television stations,” Feddeman wrote. “Comcast had no influence over the decision whatsoever.”

Feddeman confirmed that a fourth NBC-owned station not cited by Lynch — New York City’s WNBC-TV (Channel 4) — also rejected the ads.

Sling TV, owned by Dish Network, is an internet streaming service that offers a handful of cable television channels from the Disney, Turner, AMC and Scripps family of networks. Its base rate is $20 a month for around 20 channels, a rate lower than base packages offered by traditional services like Comcast but also one that contains fewer programming options.

Attempts to reach Lynch for interviews have been unsuccessful.

Comcast acquired NBC’s parent company NBCUniversal from General Electric in 2011.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).