DirecTV Just Lost the Weather Channel

A payment dispute has broken the relationship between the network and the satellite giant.

The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore reports on Hurricane Irene from New York City in 2011.  
National Journal
Alex Brown
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Alex Brown
Jan. 14, 2014, 9:39 a.m.

The Weath­er Chan­nel’s Jim Cantore can of­ten be seen brav­ing hur­ricanes, floods, or tor­nadoes. But today, vis­it­ors to the chan­nel’s web­site find him warn­ing of a dif­fer­ent danger: Dir­ecTV.

As of mid­night Tues­day, the Weath­er Chan­nel is no longer avail­able to Dir­ecTV sub­scribers, be­cause the chan­nel and the satel­lite gi­ant were un­able to reach a new pay­ment deal.

At is­sue is how much Dir­ecTV should have to pay to provide TWC’s pro­gram­ming to its sub­scribers. The 20 mil­lion people now without the Weath­er Chan­nel (the ne­go­ti­ation dead­line passed at mid­night) are now less safe thanks to Dir­ecTV’s stingi­ness, said the weath­er net­work. Dir­ecTV says that TWC is hid­ing be­hind faux safety con­cerns to try to grab ex­tra cash.

Ne­go­ti­ations con­tin­ue, and a deal would bring TWC back to the satel­lite gi­ant, but un­til then, Dir­ecTV’s TWC fans will have to do without.

TWS says its de­mands — which it puts in the neigh­bor­hood of an in­crease of one penny per-sub­scriber, per-month — are totally reas­on­able. And Dir­ecTV’s re­fus­al to pay up, the chan­nel says, puts its own in­terests ahead of the safety of mil­lions who rely on TWC dur­ing severe weath­er.

In fact, so dan­ger­ous and ir­re­spons­ible is the satel­lite com­pany’s chan­nel drop that it mer­its con­gres­sion­al ac­tion, TWC says. “Con­gress and Dir­ecTV need to un­der­stand the risks to your loc­al com­munity,” reads the Weath­er Chan­nel web­site.

Those claims are laugh­able, re­sponds Dir­ecTV. “The Weath­er Chan­nel does not have an ex­clus­ive on weath­er cov­er­age — the weath­er be­longs to every­one,” said Dan York, the pro­vider’s chief con­tent of­ficer.

Be­sides, if the Weath­er Chan­nel was really all about safety, it wouldn’t ded­ic­ate 40 per­cent of its pro­gram­ming to real­ity shows, Dir­ecTV said, cit­ing that num­ber — and push­back from its cus­tom­ers who prefer straight-weath­er cov­er­age — as reas­ons for its un­will­ing­ness to pay a high­er price. And that penny fig­ure TWC is push­ing?

That’s well be­low that ac­tu­al num­ber the chan­nel is de­mand­ing, Dir­ecTV says.

For now, both com­pan­ies are push­ing al­tern­at­ives.

The satel­lite pro­vider’s view­ers will have to settle for Weath­erNa­tion, a smal­ler net­work brought on by Dir­ecTV as its agree­ment with the Weath­er Chan­nel was about to ex­pire. Mean­while,the Weath­er Chan­nel still has its web­site. And it’s keen to re­mind Dir­ecTV how many people have vis­ited that page so far (cur­rently at 1,676,470).

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