weather channel

Cabler paints its carriage fight with satcaster as a consumer-protection issue

The Weather Channel is hoping to turn up the pressure in its carriage standoff with DirecTV by blasting the satcaster’s termination fee policy for subscribers who want to change providers.

Weather Channel went dark Jan. 13 on DirecTV after the sides could not come to terms on a carriage agreement. DirecTV maintains the cabler, partially owned by NBCUniversal, has veered too far from its charter of providing weather updates with the addition of reality series to its lineup. The satcaster has replaced the channel with its own service, WeatherNation.

Weather Channel has painted the fight as an issue of public safety, especially at a time when severe weather conditions are blanketing the East and Midwest. The cabler has been aggressive in urging viewers to reach out to members of Congress and to switch providers. It assets that WeatherNation cannot be as accurate or as comprehensive as Weather Channel’s deep bench of experts and longstanding ties to governmental agencies and first-responder services.

The focus on DirecTV termination fees is the kind of consumer concern that might also pique the interest of pols and regulators in Washington.

In an open letter to DirecTV board members, Weather Channel chairman-CEO David Kenny claims that some 90,000 DirecTV subscribers have pledged to switch providers but are facing hefty termination fees.

“Your customers were never given a vote about DIRECTV’s decision to drop The Weather Channel. The least you can do is allow them to vote now with their feet by waiving termination fees for those seeking to switch to a provider that still carries The Weather Channel, as every other pay-TV company in the nation does,” the letter states.

DirecTV responded by saying that Weather Channel leaders “have lost all sense of reality.”

Weather Channel’s letter was set to run as a full-page ad in Wednesday’s edition of the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.

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DirecTV’s response:

“The Weather Channel is so used to dramatizing the weather, they may have lost all sense of reality. 99.9995% of our customers are telling us a vastly different story – and one TWC may not want to hear — they do not want to be fed a steady diet of 40 percent reality TV programming that preempts hard weather news. The two-way dialogue we enjoy with our customers, which is far more accurate than external surveys and focus groups, tells us they have resoundingly voted for the 24/7 news WeatherNation offers, which more completely meets their demand for dedicated weather information.”

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