Who's in Charge: The Weather Channel Makes Content Concessions in Carriage Agreement with DirecTV

by Glenn Hower | Apr. 10, 2014

The dust has settled after a three-month carriage dispute. The Weather Channel will resume programming on DirecTV, but at a considerable cost—this time, it isn't the TV operator but the network making concessions. The Weather Channel has agreed to reduce its reality program offerings as a result of its new carriage agreement with DirecTV. This change affects not only DirecTV viewers, but all viewers of the Weather Channel, no matter their TV provider.

A TV operator exercising control over a network's programming is highly unusual. Lately, it seems that TV operators are the side making the concessions, resulting in higher carriage feesthat are passed on to the customer in the form of higher subscription fees. However, the situation with the Weather Channel is somewhat unique. On top of weather and news content, the Weather Channel has sought an identity in providing premium content to compete with the likes of Discovery Networks and A+E Networks, by offering reality programs such as Coast Guard Alaska and Storm Stories. However, according to DIRECTV, viewer response to the Weather Channel programming was negative. By replacing the Weather Channel with WeatherNation, viewers still received the news weather content that DirecTV felt its customers wanted. Ultimately, it appears, then, that the Weather Channel needed DirecTV more than DirecTV needed the Weather Channel.

While the result of the dispute is eyebrow-raising, this scenario is not likely to be a typical. The Weather Channel is a specialized network, and while NBCUniversal has an equity stake in the network, The Weather Channel is an independently operating network subject to its own carriage agreements. While the dispute resolution has the possibility to affect content in carriage negotiations with other, smaller specialized networks, much of the U.S. television content industry is owned by large entertainment corporations, with many companies owning both broadcast and pay-TV networks. TV providers often do not have the leverage to make content demands against the Disneys, NBCUniversals, and CBS Corporations, of the world.However, smaller players may have to be more accommodating in meeting pay-TV provider needs. 



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