News

Sun Burst: Weather, Dish Strike a Deal

5/31/2010 12:01 AM Eastern

The storm clouds have
cleared for The Weather Channel.

The network had been in danger
of losing
its distribution
mark of 100
million households
after Dish
Network threatened
to drop
the service. The
No. 2 satellite
operator complained
about
TWC’s “unreasonable”
carriage
fee demand, a lack of localized
weather service for satellite customers
and the network’s movement toward
more entertainment-oriented
fare.

Dish — brandishing a stick instead
of offering a carrot — had begun
carrying a competing all-weather
service called The Weather Cast,
produced in association with startup
WeatherNation LLC. The satellite-TV
operator even announced in a press
release that it intended to drop The
Weather Channel when its contract
expired at midnight Eastern time on
May 21.

Instead, The Weather Channel
never went dark on Dish. The two
companies engaged in three days of
negotiations, face-to-face in Denver
as well as over the phone, that concluded
late in the evening on Sunday,
May 23.

Dish agreed to a multiyear pact
with The Weather Channel that
includes developing localized
weather programming as well as
personalized Web and mobile applications.
The incident actually
presented an opportunity for the
two companies to start working
together more collaboratively than
they have in the past, The Weather
Channel CEO Mike Kelly said in an
interview.

“It led to working together, innovating,
really brainstorming and figuring
out what to do next,” Kelly said. “And it turned into, I think, a real positive
for both of us.”

Losing Dish would have cut 14.3 million
subscribers from The Weather Channel’s
base of 100 million — a milestone the network
hit just last month. Across all platforms,
including Web and mobile, TWC
claims to have unduplicated reach of 150
million consumers.

TWC will remain on Dish on channel
214 and will develop the localized programming
on channel 213, the companies
said.

The Weather Channel’s localized service
for Dish — to debut sometime this
summer — will be based on Weatherscan,
an all-weather, market-specific service
launched in 2001 and available in 14
million households through deals with
Comcast, Cox Communications, Charter
Communications, Suddenlink Communications
and other smaller operators. For
Dish, which delivers local programming
to 182 markets, TWC’s localized service
will be delivered using spot beams (satellite
signals concentrated to cover only limited
geographic areas).

The timing of the deal was auspicious
in that Dish had just announced plans to
support the forthcoming Google TV settops
— and The Weather Channel was able
to come to the table with a proposal to create
weather apps for the Google Android
platform that would give Dish subscribers
enhanced interactive features on TV.

The apparent loser in this episode was
The Weather Cast, which Dish carried for
about four days on channel 213 before
dropping it last Monday. WeatherNation
founder and CEO Paul Douglas declined
to comment.

The NBC Universal-led consortium that
owns The Weather Channel acquired it
from Landmark Communications in
2008. The network gets an average of 12
cents per month per sub, according to
SNL Kagan.

The new Dish/Weather Channel deal includes:

• Continued carriage of The Weather Channel and a customized 24-hour, all-local
weather information network based on TWC’s Weatherscan service

• Developing a personalized Web weather service and a co-branded weather app for
Android mobile phones

• Creating an interactive TV app for Android-based Google TV set-tops, to debut this
fall with support in Dish’s HD DVRs
SOURCE: Multichannel News research


Kent Gibbons contributed to this story.
September