DirecTV will return the Weather Channel to 20 million of its viewers after a caustic three-month dispute and blackout.
The Atlanta-based network agreed to some concessions, including returning to more weather broadcasts while reducing some programs such as “Coast Guard Alaska.”
The two sides came to a new deal that will restore service on Wednesday. Financial terms were not disclosed.
“I was floored,” said Phil Swann, who has tracked the TV technology business for two decades and runs the website tvpredictions.com. “This is unprecedented. This is the first time I’ve seen a TV provider say they don’t like your programming the way it’s constructed and the programmer relenting and changing its lineup. Clearly, the Weather Channel desperately needs those 20 million people.”
In a joint press release, Weather Company CEO David Kenny expressed apologies for its tornado-like public campaign in January. At the time, the network encouraged the public to write their Congressional representatives to complain about DirecTV pulling the channel off its service, alleging this would cause public safety concerns. DirecTV, in response, complained that the Weather Channel was charging too much for its dwindling on-air audience and aired too much non-weather reality shows – up to 40 percent.
Kenny apologized for the disruption and vowed to reward viewers with more weather-focused news.
Since January, the Weather Channel has already scaled back reality programming in favor of more traditional live weather coverage. It also added a new morning show last month led by former “Good Morning America” weather guy Sam Champion, who moved to Atlanta in December to become the Weather Channel’s managing editor and most prominent face.
DirecTV chief content officer Dan York acknowledged the dropping of the channel was “frustrating” for consumers, but added “their patience was ultimately rewarded with a better deal and a better product.”
The biggest affect will be noticed by all Weather Channel viewers, not just DirecTV subscribers. The Weather Channel will reduce reality programming by half on weekdays. That means fewer airings of TV shows such as “Hurricane Hunters.”
The dispute began in January when DirecTV demanded a cut in fees it pays to the Weather Channel, the Wall Street Journal reported. Payments were were estimated to be 13 cents per subscriber per month, according to SNL Kagan, a consulting firm. The cuts would have cost the Atlanta channel income and put downward pressure on the price it charged other carriers.
The two sides began public relations campaigns aimed at DirecTV subscribers. In full-page advertisements, they argued over how many DirecTV subscribers were leaving because of the situation. The Weather Channel charged that DirecTV was making it difficult for customers to leave mid-contract without paying stiff penalties. “If DIRECTV truly believes nobody cares about The Weather Channel, then it should have no problem waiving its punishing cancellation fee for those who must change providers,” one ad said.
The two made nice in their press release Tuesday.
“Our viewers deserve better than a public dispute and we pledge to reward their loyalty with exceptional programming and more weather focused news,” Kenny said in the release.
York from DirecTV wrote, “It’s a shame these disputes are played out on a public stage, but I’m pleased that we’ve been able to work together with The Weather Channel in a way that will benefit everyone.”
DirecTV will also keep running WeatherNation, the channel it first picked up to replace The Weather Channel when the dispute started. It announced a multiyear deal with WeatherNation TV Inc. last week.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.