Versus Sub Count Takes 9 Million Hit As Previews End

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While continuing to negotiate with DirecTV, Versus' distribution base has taken a 9 million-subscriber hit as free previews with a trio of carriers have rolled off.
Versus, which has been off of DirecTV's air since its contract expired Sept.1, had made up for much of the 14-million-plus subscriber loss from the No. 1 DBS provider with an expanded free preview on Dish Network, as well as through access to some additional Time Warner Cable and Cox homes in select markets. As such, Versus' base only dropped to some 71 million homes from 75 million, before the DirecTV drop.
With those free preview windows closing on Dec. 1, Comcast's national sports service's customer count has decreased to some 64 million.
Versus executive said they remain in contract negotiations to obtain permanent, wider berths with Dish and the other carriers.
"These free previews were a great opportunity to give millions of additional customers exposure to Versus' premiere programming, and we're currently in conversations with these TV providers to finalize a more permanent increased level of distribution for the network," Versus said in a statement.
Officials at the No. 2 DBS provider declined to comment about the contract talks.
Although the parties continue to negotiate, the Versus-DirecTV stalemate has kept the network, which airs such properties as the National Hockey League, IRL, the Tour de France, college football and mixed martial arts action, off of DirecTV's air for more than two months.
DirecTV officials maintain the disconnect stems from the network's push for a price increase. Ironically, DirecTV has also pointed to Dish's former positioning of Versus on the Classic Gold 250 package as one of the main reasons the parties can't steer a new carriage accord.
For its part, Versus said the dispute's roots lie principally with DirecTV wanting to place it on a lower level of service, one that would give it access to 6 million down from 14.4 million. Versus also said it had changed its proposal and was keeping pricing the same under the expired contract and capping the money DirecTV would have to pay, even as the DBS provider's overall subscriber rolls might grow.