Sprint criticizes DirecTV in full-page newspaper ads

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Sprint Brand logo. (PRNewsFoto)

Sprint Brand logo. (PRNewsFoto)

Sprint, the fourth-largest wireless phone carrier in the nation, has accused satellite giant DirecTV of repeatedly turning down advertisements aimed at AT&T Wireless customers.

In a full-page advertisement published in several newspapers on Thursday, Sprint said DirecTV had repeatedly rejected the wireless carrier’s request to buy ad inventory controlled by the satellite company to promote a deal offering free service to AT&T Wireless customers who switched providers.

Weeks ago, Sprint announced it would offer DirecTV customers one year of free wireless phone service to all DirecTV customers who switched to Sprint from one of their competitors. The initiative is largely seen as targeting AT&T Wireless customers following the merger of AT&T and DirecTV earlier this summer.

“As a DirecTV customer, we want to ensure you have options for your wireless service, which is why we are offering this amazing opportunity which includes free wireless for a year,” the newspaper advertisement said. “We’ve created an unbeatable offer for you, but that doesn’t matter if we can’t tell you about it.”

The ads ran in four newspapers across the country, including the New York Times and USA Today.

A spokesperson for AT&T told The Desk by e-mail that the offer was “another Sprint marketing gimmick” that was “misleading.” The spokesperson declined to elaborate further.

Roni Singleton, a spokesperson for Sprint, said the company has purchased ad inventory controlled by DirecTV before, and that the satellite company’s decision to block its advertisements now was because its new parent company had an “apparent lack of overwhelming confidence” that their service offerings are “equally competitive.”

“We just want DirecTV and AT&T to not be afraid of fair competition,” Singleton told The Desk. “Consumers should have a choice for wireless service and that means making sure they have access to information on offers from every carrier so they can make the right decision that works for their needs.”

When asked if Sprint would consider purchasing ad inventory on cable networks or broadcast stations that are re-transmitted by DirecTV, Singleton said “all options are on the table,” including the possibility of “rent(ing) a plane or helicopter to find DirecTV customers’ satellite dishes.”

Sprint’s switch-and-save offer includes unlimited talk, text and 2GB of data for current DirecTV customers who can provide proof of service. Although the offer is designed to target AT&T Wireless customers who bundle their service with DirecTV, it appears to be open to customers of any wireless network, including DirecTV customers who use Verizon, T-Mobile or any number of other carriers.

The deal is good for one year with a two-year commitment. Customers who switch to Sprint will still need to pay taxes and government fees, as well as a $36 per-line activation fee., and new customers will also have to pay full retail price for a new Sprint-compatible smartphone or buy one through any number of Sprint’s installment plans.

Sprint’s deal for DirecTV customers ends September 30.