Carriage dispute escalates over 'glorified infomercial'

DirecTV and Versus continued to hold firm in their entrenched positions Tuesday with viewers left wondering if the network will ever return to the satellite provider’s programming menu.

In a carriage dispute that has seen the satcaster remove Versus from its on-the-air lineup since Monday, DirecTV said it will not accept a 20% rate hike for a network ranked 61st out of 74 ad-supported nets and is, according to a DirecTV source, “a glorified infomercial.”

“The bulk of their stuff is generally infomercials and paid programming. A typical day is 10 hours of infomercials, hunting and fishing content. … We are trying to hold the line on programming costs. Things are tough all over, and we certainly don’t want to burden our customer with another price increase with these outrageous demands.”

Comcast-owned Versus, which covers the National Hockey League and the Tour de France and has a slate of high-profile college football games in the next few weeks, said the rate hike is a smokescreen. What DirecTV wants to do, according to Versus, is put 6 million of the 14 million DirecTV customers on a pay tier, where there would be an additional charge to receive the network.

“I hope things can be resolved amicably, but I can’t accept a situation where Versus can lose 6 million viewers,” said prexy Jamie Davis. “They didn’t call us before they turned us off. Frankly, those who see us on DirecTV should consider switching providers.”

DirecTV responded by offering that Versus is available on Dish Network for a separate fee and not part of the main programming package. As part of Dish’s Gold 250 package, subscribers pay $47.99 a year for Versus and other premium networks.

“All we’re doing is asking for packaging rights similar to Dish,” said a DirecTV spokesman.

Dish is now looking to take advantage of the Versus-DirecTV dispute by offering the sports cabler free to its subscribers for three months.


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