Sling accuses Comcast-owned stations of blocking its ads

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CNN as viewed on Sling TV. (Photo: The Desk)

CNN as viewed on Sling TV. (Photo: The Desk)

Editor’s note: An update to this story is available to read here.

Sling TV, the internet television service owned by satellite company Dish Network, has accused rival company Comcast of blocking its advertisements on local stations owned by the cable giant.

Roger Lynch, the chief executive of Sling TV, said the company recently learned that its newest advertisement campaign for the streaming service was banned from airing on NBC-owned stations in several markets, including San Francisco (KNTV, Channel 11), San Diego (KNSD, Channel 39) and Washington, D.C. (WRC-TV, Channel 4).

The ad campaign features employees of a fictitious company called “Old TV” bullying its subscribers into upgrading their television packages and paying their bills on time. Although the company does not bear a direct resemblance to any legacy pay TV service, more-traditional companies like Comcast have been criticized for their poor customer service ratings (Comcast itself has acknowledged it needs work in that department).

Lynch said the advertisements have aired across the country on stations owned by ABC, CBS and FOX as well as stations affiliated (but not owned) by NBC. The company appears to be having problems with stations directly owned by NBC.

NBC owns ten broadcast stations in the country. The network and its owned-and-operated stations were acquired by Comcast from General Electric in 2011. Of the four big broadcast networks in America, only NBC is owned by a pay TV service provider.

“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, adding that it was one reason why Sling TV’s parent company Dish Network fought against a proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable, the two largest cable TV operators in the country (in the face of regulatory hurdles, Comcast withdrew from the merger earlier this year).

Sling TV launched earlier this year as one of the first services to replicate the linear, or “live,” pay television experience on the Internet. Sling initially offered a handful of channels from the Turner and Disney-ABC family of networks, including the popular sports channel ESPN, starting at $20 a month.

Dish Network has yet to release figures on how many subscribers Sling TV has, though numbers reported by Re/Code puts its customer base around 250,000. Comcast, on the other hand, has approximately 20 million paying TV customers.

A spokesperson for NBCUniversal did not return a request for comment. The Desk has attempted to reach Lynch on numerous occasions for an interview; those attempts have so far been unsuccessful.