DirecTV will remove The Weather Channel from its nationwide lineup if the parties can’t reach a deal before their current agreement expires Jan. 14, in the latest feud over programming costs between a distributor and TV network.
The Weather Channel on Saturday launched a PR campaign urging DirecTV’s 20 million U.S. subscribers to swamp the satcaster with requests to not drop the network via phone, email and social media. It claimed the operator’s potential booting of the network is somehow a “public safety issue” that warrants congressional involvement.
DirecTV said in a statement that it is in talks with Weather Channel “on how to provide its service to our customers at the best value, since people now use so many other ways to retrieve weather-related information.”
The No. 1 satcaster recently launched WeatherNation (at channel 361), which DirecTV said provides “round-the-clock hard weather news, free of any interruptions from reality TV.” That’s an allusion to Weather Channel’s increasing focus on long-form shows, including “Highway Thru Hell,” “Hurricane Hunters” and “Prospectors.” DirecTV also said its emergency channels provide urgent info during severe weather.
Weather information is ubiquitously available on the Internet — including on The Weather Co.’s weather.com and related apps. Weather.com had 54.2 million unique visitors in November 2013, making it the 17th-biggest site in the U.S., according to comScore. Still, the cabler alleges DirecTV customers will be at risk of missing critical weather alerts if the satcaster doesn’t pay up. The current agreement is set to expire at 12:01 a.m. Eastern on Tuesday, Jan. 14.
“For DirecTV to take us off their lineup would be deeply irresponsible to its customers who not only count on The Weather Channel on a day-to-day basis, but depend on us before, during and after severe weather events,” David Kenny, chairman and CEO of The Weather Co., parent company of The Weather Channel, said in a statement issued Saturday. “We have offered the industry’s best rate for our programming and are committed to reaching an agreement.”
The Weather Co. is owned by Comcast’s NBCUniversal and private-equity firms Blackstone Group and Bain Capital.
In battling DirecTV, Weather Channel has launched a website, keeptheweatherchannel.com, which urges viewers to call their U.S. representatives and senators in Washington and ask them to nag DirecTV to keep the channel. The network also is rallying DirecTV subs to tweet their displeasure to @directv using the hashtag #stormdirectv, and also called on fans to post on DirecTV’s Facebook page.