Weather Channel, DirecTV Trade P.R. Salvos Over Carriage Talks

Erik Hayden

Ahead of a Jan. 14 deadline to find agreement to renew a carriage deal, The Weather Channel and DirecTV are trading salvos over how essential the channel is for hard news about storm emergencies and other breaking weather news. 

Late Friday, The Weather Channel began a publicity campaign aimed at raising awareness among 20 million DirecTV customers that the channel would get pulled next Tuesday if there was no deal.

Losing the channel would "be deeply irresponsible to its customers who not only count on The Weather Channel on a day-to-day basis, but depend on us before, during and after severe weather events," said David Kenny, chairman and CEO of the channel's parent company, in a statement. "We have offered the industry’s best rate for our programming and are committed to reaching an agreement."

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The Weather Channel also started a campaign website, including a countdown clock, that urges customers to call their member of Congress about the issue. "Don't Let DirecTV Control the Weather," reads the headline on the site, which emphasizes the public utility function of the channel that helps "prepare and protect families across the nation against weather-related emergencies." Among apparent supporters, NBC's Today anchor Al Roker tweeted a link to the site on Saturday.

DirecTV countered on Saturday that much of The Weather Channel's content isn't devoted to breaking news but to "reality television shows." The satellite TV provider also pointed out that it carries an alternative weather channel, Weather Nation, that provides "hard news" coverage. (Weather Channel is located at channel 362 on Directv's guide, while WeatherNation is located at 361.)

"We remain in discussions with The Weather Channel on how to provide its service to our customers at the best value since people now use so many other ways to retrieve weather-related information," the DirecTV statement read. "We launched Weather Nation to provide 24/7 hard news weather coverage in response to numerous customer complaints that more the 40 percent of The Weather Channel’s programming is dedicated to reality television shows."

As The Weather Channel plans digital growth it has been criticized for naming winter storms and for website coverage that has branched away from forecasts. In 2013, the channel added news series "Deadliest Space Weather" and "Hacking the Planet" to its roster of programming.