Weather Channel Urges DirecTV to Waive Cancellation Fees

Network Takes Out Full-Page Print Ads, Rehashes State Probes

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The battle between DirecTV and Weather Channel is getting nasty.

In ads in several newspapers on Wednesday, Weather Channel asked DirecTV to drop cancellation fees for those wishing to switch providers since it no longer carries the network. DirecTV dropped Weather Channel last week after the companies failed to reach a new carriage agreement. DirecTV recently added WeatherNation, another weather focused network, to its lineup.

In the ad, styled as an open letter to the board of DirecTV, Weather Channel Chairman-CEO David Kenny said DirecTV subscribers looking to cancel their service are being slapped with fees ranging from $200 to $400.

A spokesman for DirecTV said customers were not trying to cancel over the dispute with the network. "The Weather Channel is so used to dramatizing the weather, they may have lost all sense of reality," he said in a statement. "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."

A Weather Channel press release touting the ads Tuesday night also helpfully reminded reporters that DirecTV has previously come under fire for "deceptive marketing practices, including around cancellation fees." DirecTV paid $5 million in 2005 and $13.25 million in 2010 in agreements with state attorneys general.

In 2008, DirecTV was also targeted by a class action lawsuit related to cancellation fees, the press release added.

The DirecTV spokesman did not immediately respond to questions about the class action lawsuit, the settlements or the size of its cancellation fees.

Weather Channel is running the full-page ads in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, the company said.

According to SNL Kagan, the average fee for Weather Channel is 14 cents per subscriber per months. That makes it 105th for cost out of 189 networks with license fees that SNL Kagan tracks. Weather Channel has said it is seeking a penny increase per subscriber.

DirecTV says consumers have plenty of ways to get weather information, and that the Weather Channel is diluting its promised core service with unscripted programming such as "Highway Thru Hell," "Coast Guard Alaska" and "Prospectors."

"Most consumers don't want to watch a weather information channel with a forecast of a 40 percent chance of reality TV," Dan York, chief content officer, DirecTV, said in a statement last week.

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