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Weather Channel Agrees to Alter Program Lineup to Return to DirecTV

The Weather Channel is set to return to DirecTV after a three-month dispute between the cable programmer and the satellite broadcaster, but not without some major concessions.

To get back on the 20 million-subscriber service, Weather Channel has agreed to reduce reality programming by half on weekdays; return instant local weather; and allow DirecTV customers to watch the Weather Channel’s video programming on multiple devices inside and outside the home, so long as they can prove they are subscribers.

“Our apologies to DirecTV and their customers for the disruption of our service and for initiating a public campaign,” said David Kenny, CEO of the Weather Co., Weather Channel’s parent, in a prepared statement. “Our viewers deserve better than a public dispute and we pledge to reward their loyalty with exceptional programming and more weather focused news.”

The conciliatory statement marks an about-face of sorts for Weather Channel, which in early March seemed ready to invest more heavily in documentary-style series and reality programming, despite DirecTV’s objections and willingness to create a rival weather service during Weather Channel’s absence from its air.

The agreement will not affect Weather Channel’s primetime lineup or future programming development, according to a spokeswoman forWeather Channel. The the network has already replaced some of its longform programming on between the hours of 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.  – think repeats of “Coast Guard Alaska,” “Prospectors” and the like – with live weather coverage.

Formed in 1982, Weather Channel previously had been available to about 100 million pay TV households. Not having a perch on DirecTV  reduced the network’s reach in significant fashion.

The fracas marked the first major blackout in Weather Channel’s 32-year history.

When  DirecTV took Weather Channel off the air, it said more than 40% of the network’s programming was dedicated to reality television shows, such as “Coast Guard Alaska,” “Lifeguard!” and “Prospectors.”

Meantime, Weather Channel indicated it was seeking a one-cent increase in the fees it gets per subscriber. According to market-research firm SNL Kagan, Weather gets an average of 13 cents per subscriber per month from pay TV distributors.

In February, DirecTV 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. The enlisted the services ofWeatherNation, and placed its content on the channel previously occupied by Weather Channel.

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