Weather Channel goes dark on satcaster, the first major outage in the network's 32-year history
In a statement, David Kenny, chairman and CEO of The Weather Co., said the situation was “unprecedented.”
“We offered DirecTV the best rate for our programming, and I am shocked they have put corporate profits ahead of keeping a trusted channel that subscribers rely on every day,” Kenny said. “We are not looking for a large fee increase. We are simply looking for a fair deal that allows our company to continue to invest in the science and technology that enables us to keep people safe, deliver the world’s best weather, and tell weather stories to help people be prepared and informed.”
The Weather Channel, formed in 1982, previously had been available to about 100 million pay-TV households. DirecTV, with 20 million U.S. subscribers, reduces the network’s reach substantially.
DirecTV chief content officer Dan York called the loss of Weather Channel was “regrettable,” but said in a statement, “Consumers understand there are now a variety of other ways to get weather coverage, free of reality show clutter, and that The Weather Channel does not have an exclusive on weather coverage — the weather belongs to everyone.”
According to DirecTV, more than 40% of The Weather Channel’s programming is dedicated to reality television shows, such “Coast Guard Alaska,” “Hawaii Air Rescue,” “Highway Thru Hell,” “Hurricane Hunters,” “Lifeguard!” and “Prospectors.”
Weather Channel did not say what fee it was asking for, but Kenny indicated it was 1 cent per subscriber per month above the current rate. Weather Channel carriage fees for pay-TV providers average 13 cents per subscriber monthly, according to SNL Kagan.
The Weather Channel’s previous carriage agreement with DirecTV expired on Dec. 31, 2013, but the companies had extended it to midnight Eastern on Tuesday, Jan. 14. Last Saturday, the Weather Co. launched a PR campaign warning viewers that DirecTV could drop the network and urging them to contact the satellite operator as well as congressional representatives to complain.
The satcaster recently launched WeatherNation on channel 361, one position away from Weather Channel at 362. (DirecTV now lists WeatherNation in both channel positions.) The new channel, DirecTV said, provides “round-the-clock hard weather news, free of any interruptions from reality TV.”
Kenny referred to DirecTV’s 2014 price hikes, which will increase subscriber bills an average of 3.7% in February. “At a time when DirecTV has increased customer rates by 4%, they are trading safety for increased profits and replacing the experience and expertise of The Weather Channel with a cheap startup that does weather forecasting on a three-hour taped loop, has no field coverage, no weather experts… and no experience in severe weather emergencies,” Kenny said.
DirecTV also said customers can obtain local weather coverage on 1,400 local broadcast TV stations, and added that its emergency channels provide urgent info during severe weather.
The Weather Co., based in Atlanta, is owned by Comcast’s NBCUniversal and private-equity firms Blackstone Group and Bain Capital.