Versus Viewers Shut Out On DirecTV As NHL Season Debuts


The puck drops on the National Hockey League's 2009-10 season Oct. 1 with Versus scheduled to show an opening night doubleheader.

But unless there is an 11th hour change of positions, NHL fans won't get to see Versus' coverage of the Washington Capitals-Boston Bruins and San Jose Sharks-Colorado Avalanche games on DirecTV tonight.

The Comcast-owned sports service has been dark on the No. 1 DBS provider since its contract expired on Sept. 1. In dispute: DirecTV says Versus wants a 20% price hike, and should be placed on a tier, like it is with Dish Network, while Versus contends the disconnect orbits around positioning. Versus says DirecTV is looking to place it on a lower level of service that will result in its sub base dropping to 6 million from the 14.4 million it previously had with the carrier.

Versus officials said the parties have continued to negotiate. However, they claim that DirecTV has not responded to a proposal it made Tuesday for a "zero percent total cost increase," which would cap the money the distributor would have to pay even as its overall subscriber rolls grew.

Moreover, DirecTV has not asked Versus for its signal, even after a spokesman told the Denver Post last week that "if we don't have a deal with Versus by the time hockey season starts, DirecTV would certainly be open to putting these games up for our customers while we continue to negotiate."

A DirecTV spokesman today said the DBS provider offered to put the games up while negotiations continued. He labeled the current discussions as "active."

In the meantime, Versus, as of today, has remained off of DirecTV for a full month.

"It takes two serious parties to get a deal done," said a source familiar with the negotiations. "Versus is serious."