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DirecTV Pulls Weather Channel in TV's Latest Carriage Flare-up

AccuWeather Takes the Opportunity to Announce Plans for Its Own Weather Channel

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DirecTV pulled Weather Channel from its lineup last night amid a carriage dispute with the cable network.

'Freaks of Nature' on The Weather Channel, a show about 'real people that defy nature'
'Freaks of Nature' on The Weather Channel, a show about 'real people that defy nature'

At the crux of the disagreement is DirecTV's unwillingness to pay even a penny more per subscriber, according to Weather Channel.

"We are not looking for a large fee increase," said David Kenny, chairman and CEO of The Weather Company, in a statement. "We are simply looking for a fair deal that allows our company to continue to invest in the science and technology that enables us to keep people safe, deliver the world's best weather, and tell weather stories to help people be prepared and informed."

The network costs pay-TV companies an average of 14 cents per subscriber, according to researcher SNL Kagan. That makes it 105th for cost out of 189 networks with license fees that SNL Kagan tracks.

Amid the dispute, Weather Channel is positioning itself as a necessary public service, and ahead of the blackout had urged DirecTV consumers to contact members of Congress to complain. "This is a dangerous gamble over one penny a month that puts DirecTV customers at risk," Mr. Kenny said.

(The Weather Channel said Tuesday afternoon that it will help promote new standardized hashtags such as #PowerLineDown, developed by the White House, FEMA and others to help people report emergencies through social media.)

With its reach and scale, The Weather Channel has seen success with the ability to organize the social conversation around hashtags such as for tropical storms named by the NWS and around its own naming of winter storms such as #Hercules and #Nemo.

But DirecTV says Weather Channel isn't just about providing a public service. The network also runs unscripted programming such as "Highway Thru Hell," "Coast Guard Alaska" and "Prospectors."

"Consumers understand there are now a variety of other ways to get weather coverage, free of reality show clutter, and that The Weather Channel does not have an exclusive on weather coverage -- the weather belongs to everyone," Dan York, chief content officer, DirecTV, said in a statement. "Most consumers don't want to watch a weather information channel with a forecast of a 40 percent chance of reality TV. So with that in mind, we are in the process of discussing an agreement to return the network to our line-up at the right value for our customers."

Time Warner Cable lost subscribers over its blackout of CBS last year, but it's not clear that The Weather Channel is as important to subscribers as a big broadcaster. DirecTV has recently added WeatherNation, another weather focused network, to its lineup. WeatherNation now occupies the same slot that was previously home to Weather Channel.

Weather Channel accuses DirecTV of replacing it "with a cheap startup that does weather forecasting on a three-hour tapes loop, has no field coverage, no weather experts -- certainly not on par with The Weather Channel network's industry-recognized experts…and no experience in severe weather emergencies."

This isn't the first time WeatherNation has been used as a substitute to Weather Channel. WeatherNation actually began as The Weather Cast, a channel exclusive to Dish Network during a carriage dispute with Weather Channel in May 2010.

As DirecTV drops Weather Channel, at least temporarily, AccuWeather is taking the opportunity to announce plans for its own weather network starting in the third quarter of this year. The company said it did not originally intend to make the announcement at this time, but decided to go forward in light of the controversy between DirecTV and Weather Channel "in order to make the public aware of an additional offering that will be available to them later this year."

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