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No matter the company that provides your television service, at some point they will run commercials advertising themselves. The problem is, a fair majority of these commercials are aimed at discrediting the other format.

On a cable company, you'll see commercials about how satellite dishes go out when it rains and don't pick up local channels. On a satellite company, you'll see commercials about how cable has limited availability, costs too much, and gives you strange contracts. Either way, you'll see people so stupid that they shouldn't be allowed to have any technology more complicated than a dull spoon trying to use them.

Incidentally, these commercials are usually seen as amateur and filled with bad acting, even though they come from big-name companies such as Comcast or Time Warner Cable that should be able to afford better production values. An example is a Time Warner commercial that showed pictures of a cheetah, rabbit and snail and told you to "pick the fast one". Apparently, rabbits are faster than cheetahs. (At least at doing one thing.)

The recent development of "triple-play" -- phone, TV and data in a cable connection -- might turn the tables on this practice sooner or later. Satellite has historically been far more expensive and less efficient for data and phone than wired services, at least in urban areas.

One of the things Americans don't notice, of course, is that cable companies don't go after each other. That's because cable companies will not wire an area if there's an existing cable operator, almost like a mob staying out of another's territory. This is why the City of Los Angeles has 11 companies licensed to provide service anywhere in the city, but none of them operate in any area where there already is a cable company operating. So why step on the toes of someone who isn't actually a competitor? (The bigger cities have some compeition, but the "overbuilders" are much smaller companies.)

Even the two major satellite companies, Direc TV and Dish Network, originally tended not to target each other. Perhaps they figured that as long as there are people who still have cable, those are the ones that they should go after. Another possibility is that they figured that those who are already with a particular satellite company had their reasons for not signing up for the other. The two companies have even considered merging at least twice, but both times plans have fallen through. In 2010, though, Dish declared open season on Direc TV, declaring that they are the cheaper satellite company, Direc TV has responded with ads claiming better channels in their basic package and more HD. Of course, this does not go over well with cable or broadcast viewers, who may or may not have a cheaper service already...

Note: if you live in an area which is not serviced by any cable company (such as a rural area), seeing the anti-satellite ads on your satellite TV can get really annoying. The anti-cable ads annoy people who cannot use satellite because they're renting from a landlord who doesn't allow satellite dishes or have no clear view of the southern sky (the latter can be caused by trees or, in mountainous or hilly areas, high land blocking the view).

Examples of Cable-Satellite Mudslinging include:


  • A recent trend is now for cable companies to trash phone companies which want to provide TV services. Suddenlink Communications is running one in which "customers" knock the phone company for wishing to provide TV service while pointing out how allegedly poor they are at providing Internet service. Without any irony whatsoever, the commercial then points out that Suddenlink is now providing phone service just moments after asking viewers why one would ever want TV from a phone company.
    • A lot of these used to focus on the fact that the phone company wasn't actually the one providing the service. Instead, the phone company is usually partnering with a satellite provider to give the TV service. We also used to see the back-and-forth about "dedicated connections" vs. "availability" and "speed." Satellite/phone/DSL bundles would claim that they provided "dedicated connections" to customers, while the cable companies' customers had "shared connections." Of course, they didn't mention that these "dedicated connections" are not to each home, but (at best) to each street. The cable companies have responded with the fact that DSL's highest speeds aren't even available to most phone customers. They happen to be right about that, but they've made some fairly over-the-top commercials regarding download speeds. Cox Communications advertises their "Power Boost" technology vs. the ability to take "power naps" during DSL downloads.
  • In Canada, Bell and Rogers both claim to have the most HD content. Rogers had an Egregious ad in which the satellite company's picture for a hockey game is shown as far blurrier and more stretched (to fit a wide screen) than standard definition channels. So Bell doesn't have hockey in HD (which usually runs on major HD channels available in both services), and/or their HD is much worse than whatever definition the viewer is watching the ad in. In reality, the two services are quite similar for HD content.
    • Ironically, not only was the banner at on the top AND bottom of this page for Bell's service, but it was part of their "couch" campaign. Rogers and Bell have been using identical attack ads showing a couch with company-related colour coding split down the middle in an empty room and showing various permutations of the couch to symbolically represent the contrast in service.
  • A more recent Time Warner TV spot featured Mike O'Malley holding a small puppy, saying that since cable cost less than satellite, the money could be used to buy things like, oh I don't know, dog food, and that puppies love dog food, so that the simple conclusion must be that satellite hates puppies! Kind of silly... but hey, it was a cute puppy.
    • The ad execs themselves seem to have realized such strawman tactics were crossing some sort of line, as one hardly if ever sees this particular commercial any more.
      • This advertisement has resurfaced. It was originally targeted at Direc TV and is now targeted at ATT UVerse, which is the phone/DSL bundle package for Direc TV AT&T.
  • DirecTV somewhat subverts the trope, with a series of commercials where B-list or better professional actors such as Danny DeVito lend (somewhat hammy) energy to actual DirecTV customer letters. However, it has the actors reading it in a featureless studio without so much as a chair to sit in. All their budget went to the actor, it seems.
    • Sadly, they've completely jumped on the bandwagon, and now have a series of commercials starring corrupt Cable Company executives plotting (quite badly) about how they're going to lie about their inferior product. In one of these ads, a group of cable executives sits around, trying to brainstorm for ideas. One says that they can raise their rates and get people with disposable income-- people who "wouldn't know HD if it sat in their lap and called them mama." They also have a series of TV and radio commercials that feature people commenting on how Satellite has things like digital signal, and HD channels, in such a way to imply that Cable doesn't even have these basic elements.
      • It's gotten worse. They're now portraying the executives as complete morons.
    • Recently, DirecTV has been doing ads that involve famous horror movies with some actors faces badly photoshopped so that he/she talks about how much better the service is to cable.
    • Just about any movie from any genre you can think of, along with TV shows and even sports - they once had Peyton Manning (when he was on the hot streak that lead to him winning the Super Bowl) talk about the virtues of Direc TV in the middle of a game. Of course, being on his hotstreak, he could afford a little time in the middle of a game.
    • The satellite wars have intensified, with DirecTV running ads attacking cable and Dish Network at the same time, using the format to To Tell the Truth. Dish Network has apparently responded with ads claiming that they have more HD channels, which only works if On Demand feeds of single movies count as "channels". DirectTV responded by noting that these aren't really "channels" and that many of Dish Network's other HD channels are only HD part of the time. They are also now airing ads noting that they have exclusive commercial-free broadcasts of programs such as Friday Night Lights and Damages that Dish Network does not.
  • Mexico has the SKY vs. cable ads. Since SKY has a virtual monopoly over satellite TV in Mexico after purchasing DirecTV, the cable companies play on the satellite TV's ridiculously high prices, while SKY plays on the cable's limited availability and their lack of blacked-out soccer matches. Recently, the triple-play technologies are giving the cable companies the upper hand.
    • It has evolved nowadays in an all-out bashing campaign from yoo (a Triple-Play service) against everyone[1] except Sky (since both have deals with the same company), which backfired spectacularly for the same reasons as the I'm A Mac ads. They learned from that mistake, however their ads are still disliked but due to the fact the main networks spam them in every commercial break.
  • Comcast runs a series of ads in which DSL customers (who happen to be turtles, named the Slowskys) constantly talk about how great their slow speeds are, since it gives them time to relax and unwind. A recent commercial shows one of the turtles having a "nightmare" in which a hot blond cable executive got him to switch to cable.
    • More painful are the badly done "intervention" ads. If only all real-life intervention meetings were that boring.
    • "Shaq's Got Your Back"
    • The family who switched from satellite TV to Comcast because 1) movies took too long to load and 2) there was nothing on satellite to watch so they went to bed early every night. For 1), you could just, you know, do something else while the movie is loading. For 2), if your only nighttime options are television or bed, you're too far gone to be saved. It doesn't help just how bad the acting is; in one of the ads, the mother pronounces the word "meatball" in the single most unnatural way ever ("let's have a Meet-Bahhl").
  • Prime example of the Idiot Ball trope, commercial where there are a red team and a blue team competing on a TV Game Show called "You Might Think DirectTV Has More HD Than Comcast But You're Wrong". Despite being the name of the game show they're in, when the red team is asked which has more HD programming in some city (and a voice over announcer repeating sotto voce the fact that they should know this), they still get it wrong!
  • Verizon FiOS has inverted this. While they do tell you about how their main competitor Comcast is inferior, one commercial has Michael Bay parodying himself and his over-the-top standards for special effects, claiming throughout the commercial that he needs things to be 'awesome,' and ending with him talking to the awesome Verizon installer guy. This could have easily been played straight with Bay saying how Comcast wasn't awesome.
    • And some guy put up a "completely awesome version" on YouTube where the awesome Verizon installer guy blows up.
    • Verizon has been heavily bashing cable in general in their ads by having a good looking guy help new customers with their FiOS equipment while a not so good looking cable guy is either trying to prove his service is better or trying to show the Verizon guy that cable is all he needs.
  • Time Warner Cable has a series of ads where the clean-cut, good looking cable guy happens to run into the satellite guy, whose service just got cancelled. The customer occasionally stands between the two and compares their services. They've recently upgraded to the satellite guy stalking the TWC guy.
    • They've gotten worse as of late. Now there is a guy that just sits in a room, or on his couch, saying cute little metaphors about the difference between cable and satellite. Also "you don't love puppies if you pick satellite or DSL."
  • Comcast does the same thing, recasting Clean-Cut Verizon Guy as a whiny, intrusive pest who harasses customers with breaking-and-entering, disturbingly-specific personal information ("I'll just start signing your name here, Doris...") and, of course, Verizon's Blatant Lies about the Comcast Cable Master Race. In one recent ad, Clean-Cut Verizon Guy is caught clutching the paw of a basset hound with pen in hand. ("I'm afraid the dog signed the contract, ma'am.")
  • In the UK, there was a brief but bitter war between Virgin Media and Sky, after a falling out meant that Sky withdrew some of their channels that had previously been available on Virgin. So instead of saying "You can watch this on our service", Sky's ads for the next few months all said "You can't watch this on their service". ie- their Lost poster read "Answers are coming... but not to Virgin Media"
    • Meanwhile the EPG spaces where their channels used to be were replaced with Puns on the actual channel names.
    • Also with Virgin, they used to run adverts claiming that their internet connections were better than ADSL, despite their network having huge issues with latency and overselling of capacity, and the 50mbit service they advertised having very low national availability. The Advertising Standards Agency recently told them they can not run the adverts again in the same form.
  • Direc TV has a series of ads with celebs describing amazing sports moments, just to have the screen black out - "you missed it, because you have cable". This despite the fact that that people could catch them over and over in a less time-consuming distillation on ESPN's Sportscenter... at 9pm, 10pm, 11pm, 12am, 1am, 2am... That's what NFL Network is for. Combined with the basic cable channels, all of the games every week are easily accessible.
  • Recently this type of commercial has come to The Netherlands, where UPC and Ziggo control over 90% of the market when it comes to cable. They've been knocking KPN / TELE2 for the quality of their digital TV offering and DSL in general for their lack of speed. Of course, KPN (who owns the telecom network) is currently building a fiber-optic network to get better speeds so soon enough the ads will be going the other direction.
  • Even small companies in barely-relevant regions get to have this, as Alaska's two locals, GCI (primarily the cable company) and ACS (the privatized version of formerly-public phone utility company ATU, merged with Internet Alaska, the first non-AOL ISP in the state) both regularly trash each other in various commercials - ACS largely on price (they resell Dish Network as well), while GCI goes on and on about DS Snail - while using one of the cast of Frasier and his pet snail. And yes, GCI also uses the same reliability accusations that many national cable companies use - in spite of ACS being proven more reliable by studies by independents and funded by both companies... In spite of both using the same phone network.
    • ACS takes this further when talking about their cellphones, not just trumpeting their proven-superior network and team of testing vehicles for helping to keep things that way, but also by running Verizon's nationwide ads - because ACS' network also happens to be the Verizon network in Alaska, and ACS gets the Verizon-exclusive phones), in spite of them being fully separate companies. Naturally, AT&T is the primary target of these ones, in part because GCI's cellular division has essentially given up, instead getting a deal with the State of Alaska to offer unlimited calling and texting to individuals who qualify for specific welfare-type plans for $1/month.
  • A cable TV company in the Northeast US ran a series of direct mail ads that had Santa Claus telling two small children "Santa can't land on your house because you have a satellite dish".
  • The local Cox Communications (cable/phone/internet) runs continuous replays of a local news program on one of their channels. This channel is also overloaded with ads for Cox Communications, badmouthing rivals Qwest Communications and DirecTV. Excuse me, but the only way to see this channel is to have Cox service already, so what's the point?
    • Just about any cable company runs commercials for itself on its own cable system. You could see the point if the commercials were aimed at those who only have the basic package trying to get them to upgrade to digital/HD. But in many cases, the commercials are either the ones they show on terrestrial TV stations aimed at getting people to subscribe or ones that seem to be intended to get satellite subscribers to go back to cable. In either case, this effort is wasted because the targets of either set of commercials can't see them because they don't have cable.
    • Another thing cable companies can be guilty of: Sending out cards in the mail encouraging people to subscribe to cable TV. However, they don't single out those who don't have cable, so the majority of those cards are sent to people who are already subscribing to cable.
    • I don't think anyone could take a company named Cox seriously anyway.
  • Through most of 2009, Canadians got to witness a variation of this where cable carriers and over-the-air broadcasters were in a propaganda war over proposed new government regulations changing the relationship between OTA broadcasters and cable. Broadcasters, trying to convince the public that the new fees cable companies would have to pay could be used to fund "local TV" and without it smaller centres would lose their affiliates, started a "Save Local TV" ad campaign. Cable companies, insisting that they would pass this cost onto their consumers at the behest of government policy (this is less scary, of course, when you remember the entire industry is highly regulated) started a "Stop the TV tax" ad campaign. For most of the year, this was the majority of the ads aired on television. The ad campaign only died when the government tabled the decision.
  • Recently this has shifted to fighting internet-based services like Netflix. If a movie is offered pay-per-view, the satellite or cable company must remind you every other sentence exactly how many days earlier you can watch it with them instead of seeing it on Netflix.
  • Sky 1 LOVES to point out in promos for their series that they show up years before coming to terrestrial, most notably in one for Law and Order which specifically mentioned the series' FTA home Channel Five; this one was narrated by Steven Zirnkilton... who, for those who don't know, is the fellow who provides the opening voiceover for all the L&O shows.
  • LivingTV was a bit more subtle in some of the promos for Charmed that aired while the series was running on Channel Five - "Hi, I'm Rose McGowan and you are watching LivingTV, the real home of Charmed."[2]
  • News 12 Long Island, an all-news channel in New York on Cablevision Channel 12, uses the phrase "Never on FiOS, Never on Satellite" after every traffic and weather report and has commercials where people arrive late for work or get caught in the rain because they couldn't watch News 12.
  • As of October 2011, Buckeye Cable of NW Ohio (and parts of S Michigan) is currently running two different commercial campaigns. The first one involves a pair of Dish Network salesmen trying and failing to sell existing Buckeye customers satellite TV. The second one involves talking computers that are so happy with Buckeye's internet speed because of how quickly they can load up games or hit shopping websites (the latter includes a trio of computers that all sound like Sassy Black Women). A couple other campaigns were less subtle about decrying the problems of satellite TV and included such things as a list of dish complaints set to 'March of the Toreadors' and a man's plight with rain and his dish set to Ominous Latin Chanting.

Notes

  1. their main target is Telmex, Mexico's largest phone and internet provider, which can't offer cable TV services due to strange legal circumstances,
  2. Justified in this case as Living has shown the entire run numerous times, whereas Five let the final season go to Channel 4.
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