A TV antenna maker wanted to use cable TV for its anti-cable message. Now, officials at Antennas Direct say Charter Communications’ refusal to air the ads is evidence of the cable industry’s growing concern over OTA antennas, which are able to receive more and more signals in each market as broadcasters add more multicast networks and programming.
At issue are three 60-second spots that Antennas Direct of Ellisville, MO, sought to air in the St. Louis market through Charter on ESPN, the History Channel and other cable networks. The ads encourage viewers to cancel cable and save money by buying an antenna. One shows a man chained, telling an unseen voice of a cable company, “You’re gonna lose a ton of money when people realize they don’t have to pay you just to watch TV.”
Antennas Direct spokesman Scott Kolbe told The AP/US News & World Report that a Charter executive responded that the company would not run ads for “direct cable competitors.”
Charter spokeswoman Anita Lamont said the company decides on a case-by-case basis whether to accept advertising of competitors. “In this instance, we made a decision not to accept business advertising from this company for this particular product,” she said.
But Kolbe said customers are increasingly turning to antennas because streaming services such as Netflix or Hulu allow them to watch their favorite TV shows for a monthly fee that’s far less than cable, and the antenna gives high-definition access to local channels.
Statistics from the National Cable & Telecommunications Association show that the number of cable customers was 58 million in 2011, the most recent year available, down from a peak of 66.9 million in 2001.
Cable has faced increasing competition from competitors such as satellite services and more recently from antennas, throwbacks to the “rabbit ears” of the early days of TV.
“Five years ago I don’t think anybody considered an antenna company a threat to cable,” Kolbe said. “I think streaming has been the catalyst that has helped legitimize antenna television.”
RBR-TVBR observation: Well, we’ve seen broadcast networks refuse to air Dish Network ads; we’ve seen MVPDs refuse to air ads from gun shops—and it’s all perfectly legal. But it does underscore a trend that MVPDs are realizing—like radio did in refusing Sirius and XM ads years ago—it may not be worth the short term revenue gain to send eyeballs elsewhere. Local broadcasters are making curd cutting more and more appealing by adding so many multicast networks. OTA TV is free to view and the offering is more competitive than ever to cable, which is currently bleeding subscribers. Now we just have to figure out how to better monetize those multicast networks better locally.