DirecTV drops The Weather Channel over fee dispute

10:11 AM, Jan 14, 2014   |    comments
DirecTV's "dish farm" at its Los Angeles Broadcast Center in El Segundo, Calif., is seen in October. (Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea, USA TODAY Sports)
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USA TODAY - DirecTV dropped The Weather Channel from its lineup shortly after midnight Tuesday morning after they failed to agree on a new contract that expired, the latest in a series of battles between TV distributors and content owners over programming cost.

About 20 million DirecTV customers were affected, as the companies blamed each other but continue to negotiate.

Pay-TV service providers, including cable and satellite companies, pay cable networks carriage fees to include their channels in the TV lineup, and the fees are dictated by contracts that run several years. With programming costs rising, cable networks have pressed pay-tv companies for fee increases with mixed results.

The Weather Channel, which is owned by Comcast, receives about 13 cents per subscriber per month, below the median in the range of fees collected by cable networks, according to research firm SNL Kagan. ESPN, the Disney-owned sports channel with live sports events that garner high ratings, is the clear leader in carriage fees, generating about $5.50 per subscriber.

Leading up to the DirecTV contract's expiration Monday, The Weather Company, which owns The Weather Channel, has demanded an increase in fees during negotiations as customers now pay more to subscribe to cable networks. "I am shocked they have put corporate profits ahead of keeping a trusted channel," said David Kenny, CEO of the Weather Company, adding that DirecTV is compromising "safety" in its decision to drop the channel. "We are not looking for a large fee increase. I am hopeful DirecTV will come to their senses soon."

DirecTV urged customers to turn to its own weather channel, WeatherNation, that it began operating in response to a brief carriage fee dispute in 2010 with The Weather Channel.

DirecTV touted that WeatherNation is a source of "around-the-clock, 100 percent" weather news and information, a not-so-subtle poke at The Weather Channel's controversial decision several years ago to produce and air non-weather programs, including movies and reality shows.

"Consumers understand there are now a variety of other ways to get weather coverage, free of reality show clutter," DirecTV said in a statement. "We are in the process of discussing an agreement to return the network to our line-up."

The Weather Channel called WeatherNation "a cheap startup that does weather forecasting on a three-hour taped loop, has no field coverage, no weather experts."

(Copyright © 2014 USA TODAY)

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