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ASA Uphold TalkTalk Complaint Against Misleading BT Sport TV Advert

Wednesday, Jun 11th, 2014 (7:45 am) - Score 661

The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint by TalkTalk and several others against a TV advert for BT’s Sport service, which failed to make sufficiently clear that it wasn’t free to business customers or that it was only available to view online, unless customers also had access to Sky Digital or BT TV with superfast broadband via BTInfinity.

The TV ad featured presenter Jake Humphries walking into various scenes (e.g. a barbers shop and a pub) where BTSport was being watched on TV, plus one where a tablet was being used. A brief piece of on-screen text also stated: “UK residential only. Watch Online 400kps speed on BT TV with Infinity or Sky Digital Satellite Platform (12 month min BT Broadband term on TV). Terms apply“. The ad ended by noting that Sky customers needed to pay £12 a month for the service, while BT broadband users would get it for free.

However one individual complained that the ad featured scenes set in businesses, which is despite the fact that BTSport isn’t free to business customers. Elsewhere TalkTalk was joined by several other complainants in describing the ad as misleading because it failed to make sufficiently clear that BTSport was only available to view online, unless customers also had access to Sky Digital or BT TV with BTInfinity (FTTC). The ASA upheld both complaints.

ASA Ruling (REF:A13-253000)

The majority of scenes in the ad showed people watching BT Sport on TV, although one person was also shown watching it on his tablet computer. In this context the ASA considered that most viewers would interpret the ad as primarily promoting BT Sport on TV. Whilst on-screen text stated “Watch Online 400kps speed on BT TV with Infinity or Sky Digital Satellite Platform (12 month min BT Broadband term on TV)”, this did not make clear that BT Sport could only be watched on TV by BT Infinity broadband customers who also had BT TV, or by Sky TV customers, and that the “free” offer would only enable BT broadband customers to watch BT Sport online, unless they fulfilled those requirements.

We considered that this was important material information in the context of an ad for a “free” offer, and that the qualification should also have been made clear at the point the offer was referenced in the voice-over, whereas the on-screen text had appeared at an earlier point in the ad only. Because we considered the on-screen qualification did not make clear that BT Sport was only available to view online unless customers also had access to Sky Digital or BT TV with Infinity, and because it was not shown at the time the “free” offer was referenced in the voice-over, we concluded the ad was misleading.

As usual the ASA banned the advert and told BT to ensure that the necessary information was made clear in the future. On the other hand it’s also interesting to ponder what constitutes a “TV” these days, especially given that most people can probably use an MHL / HDMI connector or other method (e.g. WiFi TV link) via their Smartphones or Tablets etc. to show / stream the content from BTSport’s app or online player directly to a TV set.

In this context TalkTalk’s complaint would have less relevance, although the ASA hasn’t considered the many different ways in which related content could be pushed onto a modern TV screen.

Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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