The Weather Channel and DirecTV are in for stormy weather as the Tuesday deadline is blowing closer with no new agreement over distribution in sight. The current contract between The Weather Channel and DirecTV expired at the end of last year. The two companies agreed on an extension, however the Weather Channel suspects DirecTV will cancel the service because the companies cannot agree on a lasting contract.
David Kenny, chief executive of Weather Company, the parent company of the Weather Channel, stated DirecTV would be irresponsible to the customers who count on the Weather Channel to remove it from their line-up. Customers turn to the Weather Channel everyday and depend on the channel during severe weather.
Starting Saturday, the Weather Channel began asking their DirecTV customers to contact their Congressmen and request help in keeping a critical public safety channel on DirecTV. In addition, given the severity and frequency of emergencies related to weather conditions across the nation, weather information that is accurate and up-to-date is vital for public safety. This issue demands congressional action.
Financial issues divide the two companies. The Weather Channel has increased weather-related spending and hired Sam Champion, weatherman from “Good Morning America” and is attempting to raise fees it receives from cable and satellite subscribers.
SNL Kagen, a research and industry consulting firm, reported the Weather Channel charges its distributors 13 cents per subscriber every month, significantly less than more popular channels like ESPN, TNT and USA which average from 60 cents per month up to five dollars per subscriber every month. On the other hand, on average the Weather Channel’s audience is significantly smaller than the entertainment networks, which is why the forecast for DirecTV is stormy weather ahead.
DirecTV explained that while the company is attempting to keep costs lowered or even flat for its network distributors, the company needs to take into consideration the fact those channels with high ticket sporting events drive up subscription prices. DirecTV went on to state it planned to raise subscriber costs to help offset the increase in programming fees.
In a press release, DirecTV claimed negotiations with the Weather Channel have focused on how to provide service to customers at the most economical prices, referring to the fact weather services are available from so many sources. DirecTV has added another weather channel, Weather Nation, to its line-up, which will effectively take the place of the Weather Channel, however Weather Nation does not bring with it the brand equity or size of the Weather Channel. DirecTV has placed the new channel, Weather Nation and the Weather Channel in adjoining spots on the guide line-up. Executives at the Weather Channel are upset by the blatant negotiating tactic.
Executives from DirecTV have defended the move stating their subscribers need to have access to up to the minute weather information 24 hours a day without reality TV interruptions. Subscribers can get the access DirecTV promises them on Weather Nation. The reality TV reference was a “dig” at the Weather Channel’s attempts to widen their programming by including reality shows with a weather tilt. “Highway Thru Hell” is a reality series about Mother Nature against man. “Breaking Ice” is a reality series focusing on ships traveling through icy waters. As the two companies continue to battle over money, the Weather Channel and DirecTV are in for stormy weather.
By Deborah Baran
Salt Lake Tribune