The Weather Channel wants DirecTV to waive its steep cancellation fees for customers seeking to drop the satellite service because it no longer carries the network. The request was made in an open letter being sent to DirecTV’s board 1/22 and in ads scheduled to be published in several newspapers including the Los Angeles Times and New York Times.
In the letter, Weather Co. CEO David Kenny writes that since the network was dropped 1/13, “many thousands have called your customer service centers asking to terminate their contracts since they are now getting less content for the same price. But DIRECTV is threatening them with termination fees of $200 to $400.”
Kenny said in an interview with the LA Times that 90,000 people have pledged to Weather Channel to drop DirecTV, but they can’t afford to follow through because of the fees associated with canceling their subscriptions: “They should be allowed to switch when you take something away they really value,” Kenny said, adding that “fairness should trump fine print sometimes.”
DirecTV stopped carrying Weather Channel in its more than 20 million homes after the two sides couldn’t come to terms on a new distribution deal. In place of the Weather Channel, DirecTV is carrying a smaller service called WeatherNation.
According to SNL Kagan, the average fee for the Weather Channel is 13 cents per subscriber per month. The Weather Channel has indicated it is seeking an increase of only a penny, but that DirecTV actually wanted to lower its current fee to carry the service.
“Everybody else is already paying the rate we’re asking DirecTV to pay,” Kenny said.
DirecTV declined to comment on the contract talks beyond saying the requested increase was more than one penny. It also would not say how many subscribers have dropped the service since it stopped carrying the Weather Channel.
“It has been immaterial to our business,” a spokesman told the paper.
The current contract between DirecTV and the Weather Channel expired at the end of last year. A contract extension expired 1/14 and the network was dropped.
On 12/16 DirecTV added multicast network Weather Nation, an alternative to The Weather Channel, and placed it at channel 361, right next to The Weather Channel’s spot on channel 362.
Meanwhile The Weather Channel also asked 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.”