When AMC locked horns with Dish Network, the hit television series Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead were at stake. And when CBS and Time Warner Cable played out their spat on the airwaves, Dexter and, to a much lesser extent, Under the Dome, were held hostage. But in this most recent Network-vs-Pay TV dispute, it is the riveting drama that is our nation’s weather hanging in the balance (also, some reality TV shows about heavy rescue operators in British Columbia) as DirecTV and The Weather Channel (TWC) find themselves at an impasse over contract negotiations. Earlier today, DirecTV removed TWC from its feed, suggesting subscribers head to WeatherNation, a relative newcomer to 24/7 weather coverage, instead.
According to The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore, the dispute is over what amounts to a penny per subscriber. In a recent statement and video, the star meteorologist said, ” If you compare this cost to other networks, you’ll find we are one of the least expensive.” Cantore then goes on to suggest the its removal from DirecTV’s lineup potentially puts lives in jeopardy claiming that DirecTV has made a choice to “deny their viewers access to critical and potentially life-saving information in times of severe weather.”
DirecTV is taking a notably different position, claiming that TWC is actually asking for a lot more than just a penny per subscriber. The satellite service also calls into question the channel’s appeal to viewers, pointing out that weather information is freely available through multiple sources, including TWC’s own mobile device apps – something that significantly reduces the linear TV channel’s value to consumers. But beyond that, DirecTV is sharply critical of TWC’s move to frequently air reality TV shows. In a statement, the satellite TV provider said, “Most consumers don’t want to watch a weather information channel with a forecast of a 40 percent chance of reality TV.”
It appears that, while TWC remains popular as a web-based source of weather information, its television presence is increasingly less relevant. According to Nielsen data, TWC’s viewership dropped 19% since 2011, though it did see a bump during the week of Jan 3 – 11, due to exceptionally cold weather in the US. Meanwhile, the broadcaster led as a weather brand on the web last year, attracting 37,400,000 unique visits in the month of June 2013 alone.
While the numbers may appear to back up DirecTV, there appears to be a very vocal TWC viewership prepared to make known their dissatisfaction with DirecTV’s decision. TWC’s Cantore says he is overwhelmed by “an extraordinary and overwhelming response, with hundreds of thousands of emails, faxes, calls to DIRECTV and posts on social media.”
Whether this debate over the weather could stretch out as long as some previous network disputes have remains to be seen. Let us know what you think in the comments below: Is The Weather Channel over-valuing itself, or is DirecTV forsaking its customers by way of its own greed?