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Rodney Ho

The Weather Channel fears losing DirecTV subscribers

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Jim Cantore Reports On Hurricane Irene For The Weather Channel

Jim Cantore is one of the stars on the Weather Channel, which is in danger of being taken off DirecTV January 14. CREDIT: The Weather Channel

Atlanta-based Weather Channel went on the offensive early this morning asking the public to contact Congress if DirecTV decides to drop the channel from its service on January 14.

Why Congress? The Weather Channel is citing this as a “public safety issue” during extreme weather situations.

(Then again, we are now in a world where weather information is readily available on the Weather Channel app and in multiple places on the Web.)

Here’s info the Weather Channel’s press release:

Viewers who are interested in getting involved are encouraged to visit www.keeptheweatherchannel.com. Here, consumers can submit a letter to their Congressional representative and can find a list of Congressional office numbers to call to make their voice heard. Consumers are also encouraged to use social media to get involved with the campaign by sharing the keeptheweatherchannel.com URL, tweeting @directv using the hastag #stormdirectv, and posting on DIRECTV’s Facebook page.

“For DirecTV to take us off their lineup would be deeply irresponsible to its customers who not only count on The Weather Channel on a day-to-day basis, but depend on us before, during and after severe weather events,” said David Kenny, chairman and CEO of The Weather Company, parent company of The Weather Channel, in a press release.  “If we are not available to DIRECTV’s 20 million viewers, they will miss the accurate and life-saving information we have been providing for more than 30 years.”

“We have offered the industry’s best rate for our programming and are committed to reaching an agreement,” he added.

DirecTV – which has about 20 million subscribers and is trying to keep its costs down so it won’t have to raise subscription rates as much – said in a statement that it’s trying to figure out “how to provide its service to our customers at the best value since people now use so many other ways to retrieve weather-related information.”

On December 16, 2013, DirecTV added a network called WeatherNation, a competitor to Atlanta-based The Weather Channel, and placed it side by side on the channel dial.

Clearly, DirecTV made this move as leverage. The network said there is no public safety issue because WeatherNation, presumably a cheaper option for DirecTV, can provide weather news as well.

“Customers will continue to get round-the-clock hard weather news, free of any interruptions from reality TV, on Weather Nation,” DirecTV said. (That’s a sly reference to the Weather Channel’s efforts in recent yeares to expand being pure weather coverage with weather-related reality programming such as “Coast Guard Alaska” and “Prospectors.”)

On the other hand, WeatherNation lacks the staff or scope of what the Weather Channel can provide. The Weather Channel recently hired Sam Champion from “Good Morning America” to be its managing editor and morning host.

The Weather Channel charges carriers about 13 cents per subscriber per month, according to consulting firm SNL Kagan, far below networks such as TBS, TNT and ESPN. But its audience size is significantly smaller as well, which may be why DirecTV is playing hardball.

These type of carriage deal negotiations happen all the time but only on occasion become public when the two sides cannot make an agreement by the time contracts are up. Earlier this year, WSB-TV was off the air for 14 hours for Charter subscribers before the two sides came to an agreement.

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