When Comcast tried to merge with Time Warner Cable in 2015, many pointed out that Comcast was already one of the largest media companies in the country. Not just one of the biggest broadband or cable companies but one of the biggest overall media companies thanks to multiple media purchases, including NBC Universal in 2009. Of course, Comcast responds to these accusations by rejecting any notion that they use their power to beat down anyone, including competitors.
But recently, proponents of a corporate tax initiative in Oregon, Measure 97, claim that Comcast is blocking their ads from airing. Comcast is blocking the ads because Measure 97 supports the state’s ability to increase taxes on corporations, such as Comcast, who earn more than $25 million in annual sales in Oregon. According to Comcast, the ads were rejected because Comcast’s name was included in the ad. Once Comcast was removed from the ads, Comcast then allowed the ads to play.
The fact that Comcast is being allowed to choose is a significant problem. Mostly because Comcast has done this before. Considering that Comcast manages more than half of the interconnects in the nation’s top 50 markets, Comcast has the muscle to simply swat away at anyone or anything that they don’t like.
It has gotten so bad that just last year, the Justice Department announced that they were investigating Comcast “for possibly having too much control over (TV ad) sales.” According to the Wall Street Journal, the Justice Department has served Comcast with a civil investigative demand, focusing on “monopolization or attempted monopolization” of spot cable ad sales business.
Let’s look at some of Comcast’s recent examples of bullying others through TV ad rejections:
- Sling TV
When Sling TV began advertising last year, they mocked cable providers as adolescent bullies that coerce customers into buying services. Comcast refused to air them.
So, ABC, CBS, FOX, and independently-owned NBC affiliates (aka stations not owned by Comcast) all let Sling TV ads run while Comcast owned NBC Universal channels did not. Wonder why?
- Qwest Communications
After Comcast became the largest cable company in the country in 2003, they began to reject advertising from their competitors. For example, when Qwest Communications tried to run advertising spots for their DSL service in areas where Comcast was also offering DSL service, Comcast refused to run the ads. But as Philly.com wrote, Comcast continued to claim that they WERE running the ads. They just wouldn’t tell the newspaper where, when or how. It was apparently a secret as Comcast told the newspaper that they “could not specify when or where those ads have run.”
Several years later, MASN brought a lawsuit against Comcast for refusing to run their ads for the upcoming Baltimore Orioles upcoming season and that Comcast was capitalizing “on the competitive imbalance that Comcast has purposely created.”
Comcast also didn’t like the DirecTV Rob Lowe commercials. So what did they do?
The ads that always end with Lowe’s spoken tagline, “Don’t be like this me — Get rid of cable and upgrade to DirecTV,” may not be long for your small screen, thanks to a complaint filed by cable provider Comcast Corporation. – TheWrap
When a wireless provider named US Internet of Minnetonka tried to run a TV ad in Minnesota, they were turned down. Why?
Joe Caldwell, CEO of USI Wireless: “I spent thousands of dollars to get this ad produced, and now Comcast won’t run it,” Caldwell told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Comcast told Joe Caldwell, CEO of USI Wireless that they could not run his ads because they are a competitor. A national spokesperson for the cable company said Comcast decides on a case-by-case basis whether to take advertising for services that compete with Comcast. – StopTheCap
- Political Stuff
Whether you agree or not with the NRA views, the rejection of an ad from the NRA was ridiculous. The NRA bought several TV spots for an upcoming gun and outdoors show in Pennsylvania and was turned down by Comcast because they included “images of firearms” in the two ads. What makes this absurd is that the images were simply guns. Nobody was being shot down or killed. Comcast simply turned it down because…well, we don’t know exactly. Let’s save the guns for the numerous TV shows found on Comcast’s TV network.
Much like the NRA, Comcast refused to run advertisements that (at the time) protested a possible United States war with Iraq. According to the Associated Press, a group called the Peace Action Education Fund planned to pay $5,000 to have six 30-second ads run on Cable News Networks in the Washington, D.C., market around the time of President Bush’s State of the Union address in 2003.
Why? Because according to Comcast, the advertisement “fail(ed) to substantiate certain claims or allegations.” Whatever that means….