Weather Channel and DirecTV Reach a Deal

Weather Channel CEO David Kenny

UPDATED: The three-month blackout comes to an end on Wednesday, as the network gets a small increase in compensation and the provider guarantees afternoons will be free of reality shows.

The stormy relationship between DirecTV and The Weather Channel has cleared up.

Weather Channel will return to the satellite provider on Wednesday after being off the service since late mid-January. The break was followed by advertising and press releases in which the two sides blasted each other for their positions.

After several weeks of behind-the-scenes talks, DirecTV has agreed to a small increase in the subscriber fees it pays for the channel (currently around 13 cents per month per subscriber, according to SNL Kagan), said a source. DirecTV, with about 20 million subscribers, had originally sought to reduce the amount it paid.

The Weather Channel, for its part, has agreed to move a block of afternoon reality programming to the evening, and guarantees the daytime will now be dedicated to live weather-related programming.

As part of the pact, DirecTV subscribers will now be able to watch The Weather Channel’s video programming on smart phones, tablets and other devices at home or when they are traveling.

One key to the deal, says a source close to the talks, was an agreement DirecTV announced yesterday with Hilton Hotels to be the preferred pay TV provider in about 500,000 of Hilton owned hotel rooms. One of the owners of Hilton is Blackstone Group, a New York-based fund, which is also an investor in The Weather Channel. Blackstone used its leverage to get DirecTV to also return The Weather Channel to its line up in the same channel position it held before it was dropped. 

The crux of the disagreement with DirecTV, besides money, was that the Weather Channel has been revamping its programming, adding more appointment programming — including reality shows. It also recently added a morning show with former Good Morning America anchor Sam Champion, which got off to a rocky start in the ratings.

In an unusual move, The Weather Channel is moving that programming to satisfy DirecTV. That includes such shows as Strangest Weather On Earth, Full Force Nature and Coast Guard Alaska. 

The Weather Channel also took the unusual step of telling viewers and DirecTV it was sorry.

"Our apologies to DirecTV and their customers for the disruption of our service and for initiating a public campaign," said Weather Company CEO David Kenny in a statement. "Our viewers deserve better than a public dispute, and we pledge to reward their loyalty with exceptional programming and more weather-focused news."

"It's a shame these disputes are played out on a public stage," said Dan York, DirecTV's chief content officer, "but I'm pleased that we’ve been able to work together with The Weather Channel in a way that will benefit everyone. I know this was frustrating for many of our customers but their patience was ultimately rewarded with a better product."

DirecTV will now also carry WeatherNation, which it had used to replace The Weather Channel. A week ago DirecTV announced a long-term deal to carry WeatherNation.

The Weather Channel is owned by a group that includes NBCUniversal (Comcast) and Bain Capital as well as the Blackstone Group.