Broadcasters Tell Flying J To Quit Changing The Trucking Channel

from the sue-first,-explore-technology-later dept

We've been critical of the approach TV networks have taken to dealing with technologies such as the DVR. Instead of acknowledging that they improve the TV experience, and then looking for a creative solution, they've usually let their legal teams guide their strategy. But now the networks have a new complaint, which is a little more interesting. They allege that Flying J truck stops block out commercials on their TVs, and then replace them with their own ads, which are more targeted to truckers. This isn't a matter of simply blocking commercials, but of repurposing broadcast content for their own profit. Though Flying J is a pretty small player, it could be become a bigger issue for the networks if hotels, for example, started using the same technology. What's interesting though is that it makes sense to serve ads about trucking to truckers. Allowing establishments to sell their own ads based on their clientele could improve the efficiency of the overall ad market. Though previous attempts at customized advertising have been dissapointments, the idea isn't necessarily flawed -- one only needs to look at the difference between ads served on Spike TV and the Oxygen Network. If the networks were smart (don't laugh), they'll look to exploit this regardless of how the legal events unfold. Otherwise, the broadcast model will continue to crumble in the face of disruptive technologies.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Ranter, Jun 1st, 2006 @ 12:54pm

    "The lawsuit raises interesting questions. For example, if truck-stop managers had manually flipped channels during commercials, would Flying J still have been sued?"

    Pulled this from the WIRED Website. It is exactly what I was thinking. How is this any different from channel surfing during commerical breaks? We all know we are guilty of it. If corporations can start suing for not watching commercials what is going to stop Networks from suing because people arent watching the programs that THEY want people to watch? Ridiculious, just let the public watch what they want when they want and how they want, and quit your GD whining.
    Or better yet, stop watching TV all together and see how they fare. (which will never happen, cause american society as a whole is lazy, myself included =)

    /end rant

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Aaron deOliveira (profile), Jun 1st, 2006 @ 12:59pm

    I've had similar discussion with my musical friends about their work. I feel that as everything goes digital and can be manipulated everything will reach the 'least common denominator', an example being manually changing the channel during a commercial or having a box do it for you. These are obvious physical distinctions, but not so obvious legally.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2006 @ 1:22pm

    Shh! Quiet or the networks will get ideas. Next thing they'll be forcing DVR makers to send the networks tracking info telling them who skipped commercials. Then it's an easy step for a network lawyerto show up at your door with a lawsuit, or you can settle for a low $3,000 a la RIAA...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Royce, Jun 1st, 2006 @ 1:31pm

    Well, I don't think the problem is them not seeing/watching the ads, its the fact of this statement "This isn't a matter of simply blocking commercials, but of repurposing broadcast content for their own profit." Whenever you make profit off of someone else’s content you are always going to have trouble. Same as if I were to order a pay-per-view event and had 20 friends come and each pay me to view it and I ended up making a profit. If I were caught I would be facing penalties.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Brian, Jun 1st, 2006 @ 1:47pm

    Who Cares

    Who watches commercials anyway?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    consumer, Jun 1st, 2006 @ 1:50pm

    to me this just shows a trend to PPV TV. If any of these companies where smart they would work on a service that you subscribe to and has a list of TV programs to wacth on demand, while suffering the list you could play comercials and at the begining and end of each show paly a min of comercials that u cant skip. The show would be uninterupted, i would pay for this, I hate how comercials break up the show. Plus in 10 years TVs will not exist everything will be on the internet, so they better get ahead of the curve or die

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Junyo, Jun 1st, 2006 @ 1:51pm

    Area Man Won't Do Anything Without Express Written Consent Of NFL
    PITTSBURGH - Joel Mikita, a Steelers fan and extremely loyal follower of professional football, seeks out the NFL's explicit permission before engaging in any sort of activity or conversation he thinks they may not approve of, the commissioner's office of the National Football League reported Wednesday. "When we first received a letter from Mr. Mikita in January 1995 requesting permission to record the AFC Championship game because he had to work that Sunday, we thought it was a considerate gesture and of course granted him approval," said NFL Standards And Practices chairman Mark Helowitz. "But since then, it's gotten a little out of hand. We have a team of lawyers working around the clock inventing forms and drawing up new regulations for him, informing him if it's okay to tell his buddy the final score of last night's game, or if he's allowed to say bad things about the Eagles coaching staff, or if he can tape a game with his TiVo, and if so, whether or not we care if he fast-forwards through the commercials." Helowitz added that amidst all the requests, there was one "really sweet one" seven years ago in which Mikita asked for written permission to ask his longtime girlfriend Michelle to marry him.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Nismoto, Jun 1st, 2006 @ 1:54pm

    Re: (Ranter)

    Error Line 14 column 1: end tag for element "rant" which is not open.

    /end rant

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    ehrichweiss, Jun 1st, 2006 @ 1:57pm


    One wonders if they'd have the same problem if instead of cutting out the commercials, they cut to 1/4 frame and placed their own commercials in the other 3/4's.

    |X| |
    | | |

    Or if they cut to a 3/4 frame and had banners, etc.

    | | |
    | | |
    | | |
    | | |
    ------------------ |

    The latter method would allow them to provide their own commercials during the entire broadcast whereas the former method would require there to be switching when the ("original")commercials start/stop. Either way, both would technically allow the original commercials to be passed while still allowing the truckstop to do the advertising they are rightfully allowed to do for providing the "service" of the tv's. As I see it(and others do too obviously), there's no difference between what they are doing and mere channel they have their own channel that they happen to switch to during commercials..doesn't seem like an issue to me. Of course my question is why the content providers aren't offering Flying J money to pass on the ads.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    ehrichweiss, Jun 1st, 2006 @ 1:59pm

    Re: frames...

    ok, guess my attempted ascii art wasn't up to snuff...oh well

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Kevin, Jun 1st, 2006 @ 2:31pm


    Commercials. They are more American than apple pie. How does a company pay for something they don't charge customers to see? Get someone else to pay for it! And since people will never choose to watch a commercial if there is another means, it must be forced down their throats.

    Personally, I see commercials as a waste of my life. That is why I surf, cook, clean, and toilet time the commercials.

    A thought just occured to me. Place ads on disposable products.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Kevin, Jun 1st, 2006 @ 2:32pm


    and pay me to use the advertising toilet paper

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Brian, Jun 1st, 2006 @ 2:37pm

    It all depends on the licensing...

    Much of the legal case will depend on the Flying J's agreement with their provider.

    I have seen some of these contracts, which every sports bar typically have, there is nothing in them that says anything about requiring to show the commericals.

    In fact, one specific college's sports bar I use to manage would switch from commericals over to highlights from past football/basketball games, small video clips about the university or some commericals for university sponsors.

    The reason this works (for bars) is because they don't pay 44.95 a month to Time Warner for cable, they pay hundreds, if not thousands a month to broadcast to the public.

    This sounds to me like the content people getting more greedy (suprise suprise) and trying to benefit from both ends, sort of the like they want to do with net netruality.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    GDog, Jun 1st, 2006 @ 3:39pm

    Amazing Kreskin

    The future of broadcast anything, I think, is dead. I believe content providers will go to a pay by show method, commercial free. This is, sometimes unfortunately, the most democratic method to bring us content. Popularity will still rule, just as it does now, but without someone directing or redirecting someone else's content. I think of Bill Maher when I type this.

    This method can keep shows like Firefly on the air, if fans are devoted enough to pay more for lack of numbers. Take a look at to see how people are voting on that one. $1-5 per channel would cover everything I watch, and still come in cheaper than my cable package (which is everything, cause I'm a glutton apparently). Ala Carte will rule, although it will be slow coming out of the chute. So many people require simplicity still, in everything. I look back at technology and how people embrace it, and the early telephone sticks out. You picked it up, told the lady who you needed to talk to, and then you talk to them. We have to make a TV system that easy, while keeping interactivity via the web. Say channels run $1-5/mo, but you want to watch a show on a channel you don't pay for. Say $.50 per show, or if you're paying for 5 channels, you get 5 free shows a month. I like this model, because it forces the content providers to be more real, and down to earth. I don't care if the stars of Friends want $1m per episode, in this model, they'd have to be reeeeaaalll popular. I've got more on the subject, but you guys all get the idea. Not that it's really new anyway. Many people suggested it when cable was rolling out.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    mike-ish, Jun 1st, 2006 @ 3:48pm

    cable company

    My cable company does something like this. They replace the channels' ads with their own anti-satellite propaganda, don't-steal-cable garbage, and local schlock. Like commercials on WGN replaced with local restaurant spots. How is that any different?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    dave-esque, Jun 1st, 2006 @ 4:50pm

    Re: cable company

    It's different because those spots are specifically designated in the broadcast stream as being for local advertising. The cable company isn't replacing something that they aren't allowed to by contract - in fact, the contract specifically allows for it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Tin Ear, Jun 1st, 2006 @ 4:55pm

    Re: cable company

    One difference is that some of the commercials on the TV are considered 'Paid Sponsor' spots and others are 'Public Service Announcments'. I used to work in radio and when we had a live feed from the network, there were certain ads that came over the feed that we were REQUIRED to play. Others (and they were very specific about which ones) we could cover with our own local content. You would have ads from the Big 4 auto makers, or pharmaceutical companies, etc., etc., that had to air, but others about a whole range of stuff that were 'filler ads' and could be broadcast over.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Dale Albiston, Jun 2nd, 2006 @ 12:14am


    win or loose all the content providers will do is change the contracts to explicitly state you can *replace* the adverts with anything, they will find it very hard to stop channel surfing, but i would not be suprised to see that int he contract either. something along the lines of a program must be shown whole, with no channel changing between the start & end.

    frankly unless its automatic i really can't see people surfing during ad breaks unless the breaks are huge anyway, its 'manual effort' which tends not to be bothered with.

    of course the alternative is make ads that are worth watching, which given the ad typically has more spent on it per minute of 'ontent' than the programs do may not be that hard.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Jus B, Jun 12th, 2006 @ 1:32pm

    Well I do understand the POV of tellevision stations, and its not changing the channels, it is covering up the commercials, there is a difference, whether legalities come into play is another avenue, but the commercials we see while watching our favorite show pays for that spot, and the payment helps pay for the show you watch. With out those you will soon see the USA following the UK in TV Licenses.
    Accidentally turning on your TV and getting all premium channels is different from owning a 'hot box' to obtain them.

    Maybe, the TV companies should be marketing these boxes so that companies such as Flying J's can advertise the local companies.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Ken English, Aug 14th, 2006 @ 6:42am

    The problem is, they are using someone else's Intellectual Property to carry their own commercials.

    If they want to, Flying-J (or a hotel, bar, etc) can produce their own channel containing all the commercials they want. But, most likely, someone would simply walk over and change the channel. So, they are using someone else's content to hold the viewer's interest, then substituting their own spot for the one of the advertiser who paid to create the more- interesting content.

    That's what makes it wrong, and illegal.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Keith, Oct 30th, 2007 @ 12:35pm

    What about hearing impaired can't watch commerical

    I knew FCC isn't requiring closed-captioning for commercials
    yet, but I tired of sick about that without closed-captioning!
    That is discriminate to me because they don't providing CC
    on commercials, but 50% commercials are captioned without FCC
    requirement at all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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