Telco, MSOs Battle Over Cable Ads

NEW YORK Verizon Communications has taken aim at its cable competition, claiming three major system operators have refused to carry its advertisements that criticize the rising costs of cable service.

Verizon said Comcast, Cablevision and Time Warner Cable have rejected its ads in their respective New Jersey markets in a bid to keep consumers in the dark about their ability to choose an alternative pay-TV provider.

“These cable companies use their operations to present only one side of the issue because they don’t want consumers to know there could be a choice for cable TV in this state,” said Dennis Bone, president of Verizon’s New Jersey operations. “The cable industry is erecting yet another barrier to efforts to give consumers in New Jersey what they want and deserve: a choice of cable TV providers.”

In a statement, Comcast fired back at Verizon, saying it “will not run advertising that contains unsubstantiated, false and misleading claims.” Comcast also cited research from the National Cable and Telecommunications Association that suggests groups supporting Verizon’s lobbying efforts, such as Consumers for Cable Choice, are actually funded by the telco.

Cablevision also dismissed Verizon’s claims, calling its ad “purposely misleading.” Spokesman Jim Maiella added that “a $90 billion phone monopoly complaining about high rates and not being able to get its message out is laughable. Is there anyone in New Jersey who hasn’t seen hundreds of Verizon ads?”

The Verizon spots said that cable rates have risen 86 percent since 1995 because cable has a monopoly on the pay TV business. The ad does not criticize satellite providers like DirecTV and EchoStar’s Dish Network.

The ads were launched in conjunction with the New Jersey state senate’s approval of a bill that, if passed into law, would grant the telco a statewide video franchise in the Garden State, opening the door to rapid deployment of Verizon’s FiOS TV video service.