Weather wars: DirecTV drops Weather Channel, AccuWeather to add channel

After weeks of fruitless negotiations, DirecTV unceremoniously dumped The Weather Channel from its line-up at 12:01 a.m. today. Twenty million fewer Americans now have access to The Weather Channel. Meanwhile, AccuWeather announced Monday it plans to launch a weather channel in the third quarter this year, joining what has suddenly become a crowded space in television weather coverage.

The Weather Channel expressed disbelief in DirecTV’s move to turn off the network.

“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,” CEO David Kenny said in a statement. “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.”

DirecTV countered that The Weather Channel, whose programming includes a mix of taped programming (e.g. docudramas, educational programs, and reality TV) and straight weather coverage, isn’t the only show in town.

“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,” the satellite carrier said in a statement.

DirectTV said that its subscribers can obtain 24-hour coverage from WeatherNation, the Denver-based company it added to its line-up last month.

“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),” it said.

Related: An alternative to The Weather Channel: Weather Nation TV, interview with CEO Paul Douglas

In his statement, The Weather Channel’s Kenny accused DirecTV of sacrificing quality to save money.

“[DirecTV] is 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,” Kenny said.

The Wall Street Journal reports DirecTV wants The Weather Channel to reduce its fees by more than 20 percent. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal says, The Weather Channel is asking DirecTV for an increase of one cent a subscriber each month. From the Wall Street Journal’s report:

DirecTV is the second biggest pay-TV provider, serving more than 20 million people, so a blackout would have an immediate impact on the channel’s potential audience. But accepting a reduction in its fees could hit the channel and its parent company, Weather Co., hard, and potentially lead other pay-TV providers to make similar demands. The channel is in more than 100 million households, according to the company.

For DirecTV subscribers, the loss of The Weather Channel may just be temporary. DirecTV says it could bring The Weather Channel back, but it’s pressing for more straight weather coverage.

“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,” DirecTV’s statement said.

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AccuWeather’s announces weather channel plans

For years The Weather Channel faced no competition. But the emergence of WeatherNation has given TV cable and satellite carriers an alternative. Now the television weather space is about is grow even more crowded, as AccuWeather announced Monday its intentions to launch a network in the third quarter of this year.

“The new AccuWeather Channel will be focused on helping people make better decisions in planning to improve life and safety,” AccuWeather’s release says. “It will provide highly localized and customized forecasts, and will round out AccuWeather’s suite of services to the public.”

And there’s one more player joining the field. A small start-up known as Network Weather is also planning to launch a weather channel October 1, 2014. The Atlanta-based start-up has brought aboard former Weather Channel on-camera meteorologists Dave Schwartz and Rich Johnson and has already begun to post articles and videos on its Facebook page.

Related content

DirecTV dispute: Is Weather Channel trying to have it both ways?

Weather Channel urging viewers to pressure DirecTV not to drop network

Jason is currently the Washington Post’s weather editor. A native Washingtonian, Jason has been a weather enthusiast since age 10.
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Matt Rogers · January 14, 2014

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