Weather Channel Tries 'Public Safety' Blackmail to Hike Its Fee from DirecTV

The Los Angeles Times reports that the Comcast-owned Weather Channel is starting to play hardball over demanding higher fees to air on the DirecTV satellite TV system.

Everyone needs their weather news to stay safe, they argue, so DirecTV is threatening public safety by not knuckling under. They're even pressing DirecTV viewers to write Congress and insure Comcast gets more profits for this "critical public safety resource," like your local TV station doesn't cover the weather:

The Weather Channel said that starting Saturday it would ask its DirecTV viewers to call their congressmen and senators and "ask them to help keep this critical public safety resource in the DirecTV lineup." The network added that "given the increasing frequency and severity of weather-related emergencies across the country, access to timely and accurate weather information is imperative for public safety and, therefore, an issue meriting congressional attention."

The two sides are divided over financial terms, people familiar with the matter said. The Weather Channel, which is increasing its spending on weather-related programming and recently hired "Good Morning America" weatherman Sam Champion to host a new morning show, is looking to boost the fees it gets from pay-TV distributors.

According to SNL Kagan, an industry consulting and research firm, the Weather Channel charges distributors an an average of about 13 cents per subscriber per month. That pales in comparison to general entertainment networks such as USA and TNT and sports channels like ESPN that charge from 60 cents up to $5 per subscriber per month.

However, the audience for the Weather Channel is also on average much smaller than those networks, which is why DirecTV is balking. 

DirecTV added a channel called WeatherNation and then mocked the "publlic safety resource" for doing reality TV shows to boost their ratings. "Customers will continue to get round-the-clock hard weather news, free of any interruptions from reality TV, on Weather Nation,"  they said.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis