The companies aren’t disclosing financial terms, but DirecTV appears to have won some major concessions, including an apology. The Weather Channel (to appear on channel 362) will cut its reality programming by half on weekdays. It also will return instant local weather and authorize DirecTV subscribers to stream its video programming to multiple devices inside and outside the home. And, in a really unusual twist, TWC chief David Kenny apologized to “DirecTV and their customers for the disruption of our service and for initiating a public campaign. Our viewers deserve better than a public dispute, and we pledge to reward their loyalty with exceptional programming and more weather focused news.” DirecTV Chief Content Officer Dan York crowed that while the dispute was “frustrating for many of our customers … their patience was ultimately rewarded with a better deal and a better product.”
Related: TWC Pushing Public Safety Image After DirecTV Blackout
DirecTV dropped TWC on January 14. The channel wanted a penny increase in the price DirecTV pays for it. (It averages 13 cents per subscriber per month across pay TV systems, according to SNL Kagan data.) But DirecTV said it wanted to cut its outlays, noting that TWC too often offers reality programs such as Deadliest Space Weather and Coast Guard Alaska instead of the latest local weather. Last week DirecTV strengthened its bargaining position by reaching a multi-year agreement to offer WeatherNation (on channel 361).
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The Weather Channel doesn’t think so, even though the No. 1 satellite service dropped it on January 14.“We have resumed discussions with DirecTV and hope to resolve our differences,” says Weather Channel rep Shirley Powell. But DirecTV strengthened its bargaining position today by reaching a multi-year agreement to offer WeatherNation. The deal “ensures our customers will have a service that is fully committed to providing all weather related information all the time,” DirecTV Chief Content Officer Dan York says. “The overwhelmingly positive comments we’ve been receiving from customers made the decision to extend our agreement easy and expedient.”
Related: TWC Pushing Public Safety Image After DirecTV Blackout
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Sam Champion’s Weather Channel show America’s Morning Headquarters opened to a cloudy future Monday. An average of 207,000 total viewers (64,000 in the news demo) caught Champion’s unveiling from 7-10 AM ET. That’s a 12% decline in total viewers compared with the network’s prior four-week average in the block of time and a 14% demo drop. Champion’s unveiling attracted his biggest crowd at 8 AM: 240,000 viewers (78,000 in the demo). That said, the prior four-week average in that hour was 255,000, so Champion’s best was down 6% compared to the network’s recent performance. It was much the same at 7 AM (199,000 viewers, down 13%) and at 9 AM (183,000, down 21%).
Related: Sam Champion Leaves ‘GMA’ For Weather Channel
Numbers for other morning shows aren’t apples to apples, because many air 6-9 AM. That said, Champion’s former TV home, ABC’s Good Morning America, logged 5.77 million total viewers Monday morning, according to fast stats, while CNN’s New Day averaged 452,000, MSNBC’s Morning Joe brewed up 339,000, and Fox News’ Fox & Friends dominated with 1.13 million.
Related: TCA: Weather Channel Tells Critics DirecTV Is Putting Americans At Risk
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While he hasn’t decided whether to oppose the deal in Washington, DirecTV CEO Mike White says Comcast’s $42.5B pact to buy Time Warner Cable would result in “unprecedented media concentration in one company.” The No. 1 satellite service provider is “still assessing some of the competitive implications” but White wants to “ensure it’s appropriately scrutinized” — especially the “effective broadband monopoly they might have in two-thirds of the country.” The owner of NBCUniversal also would have a lot of power to raise content prices. That “creates some significant changes in the competitive landscape that we have to think hard about.” Couldn’t Comcast use its clout, with 30M subs after a merger, to slow the rate of increase in programming costs? Perhaps, but “it’s a complicated dynamic because that leverage may not flow through to its competitors.”
White says he’ll continue to resist high programming costs.”None of our customers have an income like those of us on the call here.” He wouldn’t comment on the state of the carriage negotiations with The Weather Channel, which went dark on DirecTV in January, but says that his company “may have lost a few thousand customers in the first quarter” due to the dispute. “Fundamentally I continue to believe if your viewership goes down ….that should be reflected in the price.” Read More »
If you guessed Sam Champion‘s new The Weather Channel show was going to be called AMHQ — you win! Champion himself did the unveiling, this morning, via Twitter.
TWC put out a news release, however, explaining AMHQ is short for America’s Morning Headquarters – but that the official title is AMHQ. Read More »
On a day when a blizzard blanketed a large chunk of the country in snow and ice, there’s a new offensive in the carriage war between DirecTV and the Weather Channel. As the blackout continued during the whiteout, TWC has fired off an open letter to the satcaster’s board (read it here). The missive, signed by the Weather Company Chairman and CEO David Kenny, urges DirecTV to waive termination fees for customers who want to switch to a provider that carries the Weather Channel. “We have heard from viewers across the country, like Heather in Texas who wrote, ‘We just signed on with DIRECTV.…Had I known this was going to happen I would NOT have signed up. I read the fine print (too late) and found that they can do that. It’s wrong.’” The letter, dated tomorrow, closes with a near-plea for expediency: “As our team of more than 220 expert meteorologists tracks winter storms, wildfires in Southern California, and many other potential weather emergencies, a prompt reply—not to me, but to your customers—would surely be appreciated.”
Weather Channel Pushing Public Safety Image After DirecTV Blackout
DirecTV Hits Back In Weather Channel Spat, Citing Customer Complaints
All this comes on the heels of the Weather Channel’s weekend session at TCA, when execs reiterated their claim that DirecTV’s blackout — which began January 14 at midnight ET. is putting Americans at risk. The Q&A with TV critics was one day at Moody’s warned that the channel’s bond rating could suffer if the satcaster dispute continues. Read TWC’s press release that accompanied its letter to DirecTV below:
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The Weather Channel faces “severe operational and credit ramifications” if it can’t reach a deal with DirecTV to bring it back to the satellite company’s 20M subscribers, Moody’s Investors Service says today. The channel went dark this week on the No. 1 satellite service. The bond rating firm isn’t worried yet, saying that “there is a good chance that both parties will eventually renew the contract in order to avoid customer dissatisfaction and churn.” But TWC had better watch out. Its debt burden sharply increased last year when it borrowed $600M to pay a dividend to its owners — NBCUniversal, Bain Capital Partners, and Blackstone Management Partners. Moody’s said at the time that the borrowing seemed to indicate that “NBCU is comfortable with high leverage at [TWC], and signals that it does not view [TWC] as a strategic core-asset, but as an opportunistic investment.” Although it said that TWC generates enough cash to pay down the debt quickly, it expected the company to “either make acquisitions or build capacity for future dividend payments.” That’s why the DirecTV dispute is worrisome. Revenues from TV ad sales and distributor fees account for as much as 60% of TWC’s sales, Moody’s estimates — and without DirecTV the top line number could decline “in the mid single to low double digit range.” That could trouble debt owners: TWC is “weakly positioned” in Moody’s rating of B1, which indicates its belief that its debt too risky for many investors. Read More »
4TH UPDATE, 10:05 PM: Each side is — gasp! — blaming the other for the blackout. Now DirecTV has issued a statement of its own regarding the Weather Channel. It reads in part: “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.” (The full statement is below.)
Related: Weather Channel Tells TV Critics That DirecTV Is Putting Americans At Risk; Critics Dubious
3RD UPDATE, 9:21 PM: Here we go again. In the latest showdown between a pay TV company and a content provider, the Weather Channel is no longer available on DirecTV as of midnight Eastern. The parties were unable to reach a carriage deal. DirecTV customers who tune to the familiar channel 361 are getting the feed from a small operation called WeatherNation, which the satcaster had snuck onto channel 361 before year’s end. “We offered DirecTV the best rate for our programming, and I am shocked they have put corporate profits ahead of keeping a trusted channel that subscribers rely on every day,” David Kenny, chairman and CEO of The Weather Company, said in a statement tonight. “We are not looking for a large fee increase. We are simply looking for a fair deal. …” (Read the company’s full statement below.)
During the Weather Channel’s crowded session at the TCA Press Tour this morning, its president David Clark and Sam Campion — recently poached from Good Morning America — toed the company line that the satcaster not carrying their channel amounts to a public safety issue. Their statements echoed a release from the Weather Channel late Friday that urged DirecTV subscribers to call their congressmen to voice concern about losing the service. The satellite TV giant responded with a release of its own saying it had received numerous complaints about the Weather Channel’s growing slate of reality programming.
The Weather Channel-DirecTV action comes four months after Time Warner Cable and CBS settled their dispute that had resulted in a monthlong blackout of CBS and Showtime channels for TWC customers. Read More »
A major storm rained down on Winter TV Press Tour 2014 this morning when The Weather Channel took the stage to blast DirectTV over their current carriage dispute. In anticipation of the channel’s appearance before a couple hundred journalists at the tour, it issued an ominous campaign late last night warning viewers they needed to contact their congressional reps to intervene, or else DirecTV would take away “its critical weather programming,” calling it a “public safety issue.”
TV critics at the press tour weren’t entirely drinking The Weather Channel’s Kool-aid. One critic noted TWC is a successful company owned by a big corporation, asking “Is it fair to declare it a public utility?” in what’s really a business dispute.
Related: DirecTV Hits Back In Weather Channel Spat, Citing Customer Complaints
“Absolutely. And I’m not kidding,” Weather Channel president David Clark responded ominously. “If you’ve ever been in a severe weather situation and you need to make a decision to protect your family and you need to make it fast” you need “to know your information comes from a trusted source… We have a mission to serve that we take seriously. Don’t think you can stand a fly-by-night alternative to that,” he said, warning “you’re going to be putting your audience at risk.”
And by “fly-by-night” he meant a little channel called WeatherNation that the satellite giant’s subscribers might have noticed appearing right next to Weather Channel on DirecTV’s lineup in recent weeks, as the satcaster’s carriage deal with The Weather Channel is set to expire next week.
At Clark’s side on stage, The Weather Channel’s pricey new hire Sam Champion warned “there isn’t one,” in re alternatives to The Weather Channel in a weather emergency. “I’d love to say we can rest assured we’re safe in our homes because of BLANK. There isn’t one… Getting people ready, getting them through a storm that is the worst time in their life, is something I don’t take lightly, and this channel does it better than anyone else — anywhere . The Coast Guard, the Navy — everybody — police officers, fire officers watch this channel during emergencies to get information. That’s a responsibility that no one takes lightly. What we’re trying to say is we want people to have access to it.”
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Good Morning America weatherman Sam Champion, who has been with ABC‘s morning program since 2006, is leaving the network to join the Weather Channel as the host of a new morning show to launch in Q1 2014 and managing editor for the channel. His last day is Wednesday. Champion’s departure comes as GMA has been enjoying a ratings resurgence as the No. 1 morning program. It also comes as the show has been going through contract negotiations with several other members of its anchor team including Robin Roberts, Josh Elliott and Lara Spencer. Is Champion’s departure a precursor for more talent shakeups or will it give his colleagues leverage in their negotiations? “While there is no replacing Sam, we are in excellent hands with his storm chasing partner of the last few years, meteorologist Ginger Zee, who will take over his weather responsibilities at GMA and across ABC News,” ABC News president Ben Sherwood wrote in an internal email. In addition to his role on GMA, Champion was Weather Editor for ABC News.
The NBC Universal property boasted of its 100M cable subscribers and doubled growth in unique visitors to its weather.com site at today’s NewFront in NY. There it announced three new web series which will debut on Weather‘s website, cable TV channel, mobile platform and for tablet in six 2-4 minute episodes launching on the same date: Read More »
There’s been some climate change at The Weather Channel. The operation — owned by a consortium that includes NBCUniversal, Bain Capital, and The Blackstone Group — turned to a digital ad exec, David Kenny, to replace Mike Kelly as CEO. Kelly, a former AOL exec who took charge of Weather Channel in 2009, will remain a special adviser to the company, and an adviser at Bain. But the company apparently wants to boost its presence in the digital world: Kenny had been president of cloud storage company Akamai. As an ad man, he co-founded VivaKi, a digital unit of Publicis Groupe, and was CEO of Digitas. A member of the Yahoo board, Kenny was talked about as a possible successor to Carol Bartz who was fired in September.
The Weather Channel has ordered two additional seasons of its breakout freshman hit Coast Guard Alaska, which follows a team of Coast Guard swimmers and rescue pilots stationed in Kodiak, AK, as they train and implement strategies to save lives while battling harsh, icy weather conditions. The docu-reality series, produced by Al Roker Entertainment, has received pickups for a five-episode second season to premiere in April 2012 and an eight-episode Season 3 to premiere in October 2012, which will feature missions beyond Kodiak. Season 1, which has posted a 95% time slot increase in adults 25-45 and has almost doubled its audience since the debut, has two remaining episodes, which will air Jan. 11 and Jan. 18.
The tablet wars are intensifying as the holiday shopping season approaches: Amazon kicked things up today by announcing that Kindle Fire customers will only have to fill out one form to register for multiple media services including Netflix, Rhapsody, Pandora, Facebook, and The Weather Channel — and games from companies such as Zynga, EA, Gameloft, PopCap, and Rovio. What’s more, people who go through Amazon to buy the apps for their tablet will also be able to access them on other Android devices including mobile phones. The company will start to ship Kindle Fire tablets on November 15. The announcement follows Barnes & Noble’s announcement on Monday that it’s new Nook Tablet will include apps for Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Pandora.
Comcast just announced a noteworthy change to its board of directors. Johnathan Rodgers, who retired in July as CEO of TV One, joined today, replacing 10-year board member Decker Anstrom, Comcast says in an SEC filing. The one-time cable industry lobbyist and former chief of the Weather Channel left on Tuesday, the company says, “in order to satisfy other professional commitments that, among other things, will involve significant foreign travel.” (Comcast now controls NBCUniversal, which owns the Weather Channel.) Comcast says that Rodgers, like Anstrom, will be considered an “independent” director as defined by NASDAQ Global Select Market rules as well as the cable company’s corporate governance standards. But he has deep and long-standing ties to Comcast: The cable giant and Radio One co-own TV One, which Rodgers joined in 2003 after running Discovery Networks U.S. for six years and spending 20 years at CBS.