Following a contentious dispute with satellite television provider DirecTV, The Weather Channel went dark on the service at midnight Monday. The loss of the network however has allowed other true weather networks an opportunity to provide news and information to the public.
The loss is the first major outage for The Weather Channel that brought 24 / 7 weather to Americans’ homes but has since given up on its core mission in favor of reality based television shows.
It is that shift in programming choices and the lack of true weather coverage that DirecTV cited in its decision to drop the network.
Dan York, DirecTV's chief content officer, said, "Consumers understand there are now a variety of other ways to get weather coverage free of reality show clutter, and that the Weather Channel does not have an exclusive on weather coverage – the weather belongs to everyone.”
The Weather Channel had launched a public relations campaign over the past week urging its viewers to contact DirecTV and their congressmen over the issue. The network launched a dedicated website saying, “Don’t let DirecTV control the weather.”
The response on social media has been predominately negative toward the weather network with little sympathy being seen.
Commenters on The Weather Channel’s Facebook page repeatedly mention the station’s turn away from true weather coverage and its emphasize on putting on a show rather than weather news as the reason they won’t support a return to DirecTV.
Indeed, the network has become a victim of its own decisions. In the past it has chosen to show movies rather than cover severe weather that was occurring. Last year it unilaterally started naming winter storms, something that met with derision and laughter by the public and meteorological experts.
Recognizing that weather news and information is important to its subscribers, DirecTV recently added WeatherNation TV to its lineup. Its position at channel 361, right next to The Weather Channel, was a clear signal that there are alternatives.
Denver-based WeatherNation offers true, 24 / 7 weather coverage. It has expanded its footprint by partnering with local television stations to supplement their coverage.
Quick to recognize the opportunity, AccuWeather announced last night that it will be launching its own network in the third quarter of 2014.
“The new AccuWeather Channel will be focused on helping people make better decisions in planning to improve life and safety. It will provide highly localized and customized forecasts, and will round out AccuWeather's suite of services to the public,” the network said in a statement.
Disputes between distributors and programmers are not unusual although they rarely are as highly visible. DirecTV is clearly willing to take a tough stance knowing its subscribers have alternatives that may provide better information.