DirecTV-Weather battle gets ugly as 20 million subscribers lose network

The Weather Channel accused DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV) of risking the safety of its subscribers early Tuesday after DirecTV's refusal to agree to pay an increased license fee prompted TWC to pull its feed from about 20 million satellite TV subscribers.

"At a time when DirecTV has increased customer rates by 4 percent, they are trading safety for increased profits and replacing the experience and expertise of The Weather Channel with a cheap startup that does weather forecasting on a three-hour taped loop," TWC CEO David Kenny said in a prepared statement. The startup Kenny referred to is WeatherNation, which DirecTV carries on channel 362.

TWC has increased the amount of reality programs and documentary series such as "Storm Stories" that it carries in primetime in recent years. That has drawn criticism from DirecTV, which is recommending that subscribers looking for weather information on TV turn to local news programming or WeatherNation. The company said it hopes to reach a compromise with TWC. 

"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," DirecTV Chief Content Officer Dan York said in a prepared statement.

TWC noted that the DirecTV blackout marks its first major disruption in its 32-year history. NBCUniversal, which is owned by DirecTV rival Comcast (Nasdaq: DTV), acquired a majority stake in The Weather Channel in 2008. Jim Cantore and other Weather reporters appear regularly on NBC's "Today" and "Nightly News," and NBC's Al Rocker hosts an early morning program on TWC.

For more:
- see DirecTV release
- see The Weather Channel release

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