By Joe Flint
Los Angeles Times
12:57 AM EST, January 14, 2014
The Weather Channel just got rained on by DirecTV.
The satellite broadcaster, one of the nation's biggest pay-TV distributors with over 20 million subscribers, stopped carrying the Weather Channel as of midnight eastern standard time. The two companies have been unable to come to terms on a new distribution deal.
"We offered DirecTV the best rate for our programming, and I shocked they have put corporate profits ahead of keeping a trusted that channel that subscribers rely on every day," said Weather Channel Chief Executive David Kenny. "We are not looking for a large fee increase."
Last week, the Weather Channel encouraged its viewers to contact their congressman and senators to complain about the DirecTV's expected dropping of the channel.
"Given the increasing frequency and severity of weather-related emergencies across the country, access to timely and accurate weather information is imperative for public safety and, therefore, an issue meriting congressional attention," the network said.
According to industry consulting firm SNL Kagan, the average fee for the Weather Channel is 13 cents per-subscriber, per-month. However, since DirecTV is such a large distributor, it's rate is actually lower than that.
The Weather Channel has indicated it is only seeking an increase of a penny per-subscriber, per-month. A DirecTV spokesman said the new contract being sought by the Weather Channel is "substantially more than that."
DirecTV also said that its subscribers are concerned about the amount of non-weather programs on the network, Over the last few years, as part of an effort to broaden its audience, the Weather Channel has started to program reality shows about weather-related professions.
"We have heard from an overwhelming majority of our customers that they want a weather service that's 24/7, not one that's preempted by reality programming 40% of the time," DirecTV said.
In anticipation of dropping the network, DirecTV recently added WeatherNation, a smaller network that also caters to weather enthusiasts but lacks the audience or stature of the Weather Channel. It now occupies the slot that had been home to the Weather Channel.
"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 of DirecTV's decision to carry WeatherNation.
DirecTV has previously noted that besides WeatherNation, it also carries 1600 local TV stations, most of which carry local news and weather coverage and that it also has its own emergency channels.
The dispute between Weather Channel and DirecTV has encouraged another weather company -- AccuWeather -- to unveil its own plans to launch a channel. AccuWeather, which provides forecasts for TV, radio newspapers and digital platforms, said its channel will debut in the third quarter of this year.
Such feuds between programmers and distributors have become commonplace. DirecTV has already said it is raising rates this year in part because of increased programming costs. Many networks, especially those that have lots of sports, are charging distributors more to carry their channels. That has led many distributors to get more aggressive with other networks it feels it can risk losing without too great a backlash from subscribers.
"We would prefer to continue carrying Weather Channel, but only at a value that makes sense for DirecTV customers," DirecTV said.
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