DirecTV on Monday unveiled a suite of new weather services for its subscribers, including a feature that allows customers to gain access to local weather information at any time, in a move likely to undermine the position of The Weather Channel, which was taken off of DirecTV’s 20-million U.S. subscriber service in January.
The two sides have not been able to reconcile, a break that reflects some tough realities for TV networks which must now vie not only with other boob-tube rivals, but also information and programming from digital sources. DirecTV has maintained that The Weather Channel airs too many programs that have little to do with offering subscribers nitty-gritty on climate, weather and temperature – which they are able to get from other media sources with ease.
“For over 30 years, The Weather Channel has invested millions of dollars in great local weather coverage. These investments include precise local forecasts, live field coverage with trusted experts, Local on the 8′s, and most recently, a 24/7 local all the time scroll,” said Shirley Powell, a spokeswoman for Weather Channel’s parent, The Weather Company, which is owned by a consortium made up of NBCUniversal and the private equity firms The Blackstone Group and Bain Capital. “ We are not surprised that DirecTV needs to expend substantial additional resources on local, although the best solution would be that they simply return The Weather Channel to their lineup.”
DirecTV recently launched WeatherNation on channel 361, one position away from what had been Weather Channel’s roost at 362. WeatherNation is now being offered on Weather Channel’s slot. The satcaster said customers tuned to WeatherNation can press the red button on their remote to access instant local weather conditions and outlook. Later this week, short term and extended weather forecasts by zip code will also be integrated into the live WeatherNation broadcast and run automatically on the channel every 10 minutes.
DirecTV said new “Severe Weather Mix,” a display of six different feeds available on one channel, will launch in early March and will be activated during major weather events that are potentially life-threatening. Services will vary depending on circumstances and could include: WeatherNation; coverage from local broadcast stations; live remotes from experienced meteorologists; a live radar channel for tracking severe storms; the latest weather advisories from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and live coverage from national news networks such as CNN and Fox News Channel.
The blackout is the first in Weather Channel’s 32-year history. Formed in 1982, the network previously had been available to about 100 million pay-TV households.