Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Weather Channel Versus DirecTV

I think I speak for all of us when I say I'm pretty tired of all these television network vs. cable/satellite provider pissing matches. Most of the time, it goes like this: the television network asks for an increase in subscriber fees, the provider balks, and then the network goes on a PR campaign along the lines of, "Don't miss your favorite shows! Tell [cable/satellite provider] you don't want them to drop [network]! Switch to [competing cable/satellite provider] so that you don't miss your favorite shows!" I'm sick of it. It's the same thing over and over again, and it doesn't matter whether you have cable, satellite, or whatever. They're all basically the same.

The latest such network v. provider pissing match might be a little different, though: it's The Weather Channel versus DirecTV. According to the Wall Street Journal (via the Capital Weather Gang blog, which is one of my favorite weather blogs, by the way), DirecTV is actually asking for a 20% drop in subscriber fees, while the Weather Channel asked for an increase of 1¢/subscriber/month.*

(* - According to this, the current TWC fees are in the neighborhood of 11¢, so a 1¢ increase would be around 10%. And that reported "20% decrease" that DirecTV is asking for, then, is likely a decrease of 2¢. Generally, whether these numbers are reported in whole pennies or as percentages depends on how the author is trying to spin it. Which sounds like a bigger deal, a 1¢ increase, or a 10% increase? Those pennies add up, you know.)

I don't know what a fair market value for The Weather Channel is these days, but DirecTV obviously caught TWC off guard by asking for a cut in its fees. Apparently, all those infamous reality shows that TWC airs these days must not do very well in the ratings. I don't know if those reality shows pull better ratings than a traditional live weather broadcast would on a routine night with no severe weather, but even if they don't, cutting live camera time almost certainly helps TWC defray costs, right? That's probably why TWC airs reality programming in the first place. And they air it in primetime and on weekends because that's when it would get the best ratings compared to their usual fare.

With this in mind, perhaps asking the Weather Channel to reduce its fees isn't all that unreasonable. I really need to know more information to make that call. However, what is unreasonable is all of the yelling from both sides. Enough!

Note to the Weather Channel: No, this is not something we should call our local Congressman about. Sure, you provide a valuable service during severe weather outbreaks, but you're also in this for profit. Besides, there are other ways to get timely weather information, especially in 2014. Easy for me to say that since I'm much more weather-savvy than your average American, but the truth is, there is less need for a 24/7 Weather Channel in 2014 than there was in 1994. And if we are going to take this to Congress, maybe we shouldn't allow networks to bully providers into accepting higher fees which then get passed on to consumers, as has become the recent trend.

As for you, DirecTV...sure, it would be nice for us weather weenies if The Weather Channel aired less reality television. But is that really what this is about? Taking a "stand" because you don't approve of how a privately-owned television network fills its air time? Seems kind of silly to me. (Although, the referendum on The Weather Channel's programming choices that's resulting from this isn't necessarily a bad thing.) Even DirecTV must admit that the Weather Channel is an important channel to have in your lineup. Regardless, I think it's unprofessional for you to take cheap shots at them. I'd much rather you guys have taken the high road here.

I don't actually watch the Weather Channel much anymore, so I'm not losing any sleep over this. (That's a separate discussion, and it's not just about their reality programming.) But this "Weather Nation" channel that DirecTV put in its place, if only on a temporary basis? I'll at least have to check it out. If nothing else, that's one thing that TWC's shift to reality television, combined with the DirecTV dispute, has done: it's opened the door for competition.

It's always hard to tell how long these network v. provider disputes will last, but given the level of rhetoric from each side stands at the moment, this might go on for a while. Or, they'll kiss and make-up tomorrow, at which point I'll refollow all of the TWC personalities on Twitter that I've had to unfollow this week due to all of the anti-DirecTV PR they keep tweeting. (Seriously, it's gotten annoying.)


bubba0077 said...

I think the pot-shot at reality program is besides the point. As you say, with the rise of the internet and cell phones (which now include broadcast emergency weather warnings), TWC isn't as needed as it once was.

Anonymous said...

I was referring to 2016 stickers