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Dangar: DirecTV Asking The Weather Channel to Drop Rates

Parties Face Jan. 14 Carriage Disconnect 1/13/2014 4:22 PM Eastern

The forecast is stormy as The Weather Channel and DirecTV face contract expiration on Tuesday morning.

The Weather Channel said the No. 1 satellite-TV provider could drop it at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 14. The parties’ multiyear deal ended on Dec. 31, but an extension has kept the service in front of DirecTV’s 20 million subscribers into the new year.

Jennifer Dangar, The Weather Co.'s president of distribution and business development, said this is not the first time that The Weather Channel has been in a contract dispute. However, it marks the first time that it "seems imminent" that the network -- the nation’s most widely distributed linear cable network with some 100 million subs -- will be dropped.

Dangar -- noting that The Weather Channel has always been respectful in seeking “extremely reasonable rates" -- said there haven’t been any conversations with DirecTV since Friday Jan. 10, when the distributor asked the programmer to take “a double-digit haircut on our price.”

Dangar, while not disclosing a specific price, said that The Weather Channel is offering DirecTV the best rate it can, given extant affiliate agreements. Citing a recent interview on CNBC in which DirecTV chairman and CEO Mike White said programmer price increases in the 4%-5% range would be acceptable, Dangar said The Weather Channel’s ask is less than that over the term of its offer.

DirecTV issued the following statement on Tuesday afternoon: “We remain in discussions and don’t know why they are saying otherwise. While we're not going to get into specifics on confidential discussions, we have to take a close look at how much the channel is worth since 40 percent of their schedule is reality show programming and customers have told us they want a network that has 100 percent 24/7 weather information coverage, which TWC does not offer, and customers have so many other ways to get weather news.”

The DBS leader also recently launched Weather Nation, a smaller, lesser-known network directly next to The Weather Channel on its lineup.

Dangar said The Weather Channel is committed 100% to providing dedicated weather coverage during severe conditions, and that much of the network’s docu-series and long-form fare runs after midnight. She declined to put a percentage on Weather Channel’s ancillary programming other than to say it’s “far less” than DirecTV’s calculation. She added that the company’s online and mobile applications provide around-the-clock access for anyone seeking the latest weather updates.

Dangar emphasized that the company's ethos centers on public safety, that it has 220 meteorologists, “more than any organization outside of the U.S. government. We have the foremost authorities on hurricanes, winter storms and tornadoes. We work closely with the Red Cross and FEMA,” she said. “We are going to the White House tomorrow to talk about ways to get more alerts out. This is not a line: public safety is The Weather Channel’s core mission.”

The Weather Channel has launched a campaign encouraging DirecTV viewers to call Congress and ask them to help keep the network on the top DBS provider's lineup.  The network has also rolled out a website for the campaign, keeptheweatherchannel.com and installed on-air countdown clock, marking the time until the deal expires.

Dangar said the public thus far has made more than 1 million responses to DirecTV via emails, faxes, phone calls and other messages.

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