On the ninth full day of its carriage disconnect with DirecTV, The Weather Channel took its message to a number of prominent newspapers, asking the DBS leader to waive cancellation fees for subscribers who want to switch in wake of the blackout.
The Weather Channel on Jan. 22 placed full-page ads in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal featuring an open letter from the programmer’s chairman and CEO David Kenny to DirecTV’s board urging them to waive cancellation fees.
The parties’ contract was set to expire on Dec. 31, but an extension kept Weather before DirecTV’s 20 million subscribers until just before midnight on Jan. 13. There haven't been any negotiations since the blackout, according to the programmer.
The missive notes that over 4 million DirecTV subscribers have indicated their frustration over the situation on keepweatherchannel.com and that upward of 400,000 have called and emailed DirecTV. Moreover, 90,000 have pledged to switch providers.
Earlier, the NBCUniversal-stable programmer said a survey it commissioned found as many as 1.6 million DirecTV subscribers might switch providers because of the TWC drop.
“Many thousands have called your customer service centers asking to terminate their contracts since they are now getting less content for the same price. But DirecTV is threatening them with termination fees of $200 to $400,” according to the letter.
“Our preference would be for DirecTV to come back to the negotiating table and restore The Weather Channel to your lineup,” wrote Kenny. “But as you seem intent on proving a point at the expense of your customers’ interests, then at least allow them to make their own choices without unaffordable penalties.”
DirecTV, which has added an alternative to its lineup, disagrees and offers this response: “The Weather Channel is so used to dramatizing the weather, they may have lost all sense of reality. 99.9995% of our customers are telling us a vastly different story – and one TWC may not want to hear — they do not want to be fed a steady diet of 40 percent reality TV programming that preempts hard weather news. The two-way dialogue we enjoy with our customers, which is far more accurate than external surveys and focus groups, tells us they have resoundingly voted for the 24/7 news WeatherNation offers, which more completely meets their demand for dedicated weather information.”
Kenny, on Wednesday afternoon, responded to DirecTV's remarks this way: “If DirecTV really believes that 99.9995% of its customers are fine with losing The Weather Channel, then there is no reason for them not to waive the cancellation fee for those customers who want to switch."
Maintaining that it has the largest meteorological team this side of the U.S. government and functions as a public safety service during severe conditions as was the case with winter storm Janus, The Weather Channel says DirecTV wants it to take a double-digit decline in its monthly license fee, and that it is only asking for a penny increase. DirecTV says the increase is higher than that.