Tuesday, January 14, 2014

TWC, DirecTV Relationship Gets Stormy

The Weather Channel was dropped from DirecTV’s lineup at midnight Monday after the two sides failed to reach a new carriage agreement, removing the channel from some 20 million households, according to BuzzFeed.

The satellite TV provider replaced The Weather Channel’s programming with competitor Weather Nation, a small, lesser-known network that was added to the lineup last month.

The Weather Channel CEO David Kenny called the move “unprecedented” in the network’s 32-year history.

“This is a dangerous gamble over one penny a month that puts DIRECTV customers at risk,” Kenny said Tuesday. “This reckless move by DIRECTV will have an impact on our role as part of the national safety and preparedness fabric of our country at a time when the volatility and frequency of weather events seems to be increasing.”

DirecTV argues consumers now have a variety of ways to get weather information and it’s providing viewers with a round-the-clock weather service with Weather Nation.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Atlanta-based Weather Co., which is owned by a consortium that includes NBCUniversal Inc. and private-equity firms Blackstone Group and Bain Capital LLC, is asking DirecTV for an increase of one cent a subscriber each month, according to the company. That compares with its current fee of 13 cents a subscriber a month, estimates SNL Kagan.

DirecTV won't comment on its rate requests, but the satellite firm has made clear its view that a growing reliance on digital services has reduced the need for the TV channel.

David Kenny, chief executive of the channel's parent, Weather Co., disagrees. "At the time of severe weather, TV is still where people go," he says. DirecTV's request for a "huge" fee reduction "didn't make sense, and we couldn't be the same service" if it was implemented, he added.

Weather Channel's average daily audience has fallen 19% to 214,000 since 2011, Nielsen data shows, although the average climbed to 326,000 between Jan. 3 and Jan. 11, when the weather in much of the U.S. turned unusually cold.

To be sure, some of Weather Channel's loyal fans have followed it online. Its websites and mobile apps have consistently been among the most popular. The sites drew 89 million unique visitors in November, according to comScore, up 8% from the previous month. Weather Co. sites—including Weather Underground—rank as the 13th largest Web property on smartphones, reaching about 33% of the mobile media audience, comScore estimates.

The Weather Channel CEO David Kenny issued this statement after the network was pulled: 
This is unprecedented for The Weather Channel. In our 32 years, we have never had a significant disruption due to a failure to reach a carriage agreement. We offered DIRECTV the best rate for our programming, and I am shocked they have put corporate profits ahead of keeping a trusted channel that subscribers rely on every day. We are not looking for a large fee increase. We are simply looking for a fair deal that allows our company to continue to invest in the science and technology that enables us to keep people safe, deliver the world’s best weather, and tell weather stories to help people be prepared and informed. 
At a time when DIRECTV has increased customer rates by 4 percent, 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 — certainly not any on par with The Weather Channel network’s industry-recognized experts like tornado expert Dr. Greg Forbes and winter weather expert Tom Niziol — and no experience in severe weather emergencies. This is a dangerous gamble over one penny a month that puts DIRECTV customers at risk. 
This reckless move by DIRECTV will have an impact on our role as part of the national safety and preparedness fabric of our country at a time when the volatility and frequency of weather events seems to be increasing. The Weather Channel partners with humanitarian and emergency management agencies at the local, state and federal levels. We help people prepare before storms, stay safe during their effects, and find help afterward. If the network is not available to viewers, the effectiveness of these partnerships, which help make us a more weather ready nation, are jeopardized. I am hopeful DIRECTV will come to their senses soon and will not force its customers to change carriers to stay safe and informed.
DirecTV released this statement early Tuesday:
DIRECTV released the following statement tonight from Dan York, Chief Content Officer, in response to The Weather Channel dropping its service from DIRECTV.The Weather Channel has removed its service from DIRECTV, and while that’s regrettable, DIRECTV will continue to provide its customers with what they’ve been asking for, around-the-clock, 100 percent weather news and information now available on WeatherNation (Channel 362). 
Consumers understand there are now a variety of other ways to get weather coverage, free of reality show clutter, and that The Weather Channel does not have an exclusive on weather coverage – the weather belongs to everyone. 
Most consumers don’t want to watch a weather information channel with a forecast of a 40 percent chance of reality TV. So with that in mind, we are in the process of discussing an agreement to return the network to our line-up at the right value for our customers.

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