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TW Cable sues DirecTV amid football fracas

Spots claim some TW subs can't get regular-season games

Are Jessica Simpson and William Shatner lying about the quality of Time Warner Cable’s high-definition picture?

Time Warner says yes, slapping a lawsuit on DirecTV for deceptive advertising in two areas: its ad campaign for high def (featuring Simpson and Shatner) and its spots that claim TW subscribers in some markets won’t be able to get a regular-season NFL game featuring their local team.

What led to the suit, filed in federal court in Manhattan, is TW Cable’s unwillingness to engineer a basic-cable deal with the NFL Network, which for the first time has begun carrying regular-season games. Net is being delivered to all of DirecTV’s 15.6 million customers.

Seizing the opportunity to lure TW Cable subscribers in cities like New York, Cincinnati and Green Bay, Wisc., to cancel cable and buy a satellite dish, DirecTV joined with the NFL Network two months ago to set up a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign aimed at football fans.

In New York, for example, the ads said that 4.4 million cable subscribers in the region will not be able to get the Giants-Washington Redskins primetime game on Dec. 30 because the NFL Network has exclusive national-TV coverage.

But, in reality, TW Cable customers will see the game on WNBC, says the TW suit, based on NFL bylaws that permit TV carriage of a local game that won’t be available from the national network.

In the high-def part of the suit, TW Cable goes after a national DirecTV ad campaign trotting out celebrities to say that “for picture quality that beats cable, you’ve got to get DirecTV.”

Calling this claim false, suit says the high-def pictures sent out by DirecTV and TW Cable “provide exactly the same screen resolution.”

A DirecTV spokesman said the company hasn’t received notice of the suit so it would have no comment.

But in a number of TW Cable markets with an NFL team, the spokesman added, DirecTV has seen double-digit increases in the number of new subscriber signups since its campaign with the NFL net kicked off.