The WeatherChannel‘s outlook appears a bit gloomy these days. It seems DirecTV has discreetly started carrying little-known network, WeatherNation, just as the WeatherChannel’s contract with the provider is due to expire, in a move that threatens the WeatherChannel’s security under the distributor.
DirecTV, an El Segundo-based satellite broadcasting station with over 20 million subscribers across the U.S., has undergone the switch to WeatherNation with little fanfare. The move is seen as not-so-subtle message to the WeatherChannel that DirecTV is ready and willing to drop it’s programming, reports the Los Angeles Times. Perhaps even more of a blow is the fact that DirecTV has conveniently assigned WeatherNation a place right beside the WeatherChannel on the dial, a move that has confused viewers and infuriated WeatherChannel executives, per the Los Angeles Times.
Currently, talks between the WeatherChannel and DirecTV are still ongoing. The reasoning for the blow to the WeatherChannel? It’ s all about the money; currently distributors are pressed to cut costs as charges for other, more popular programming increases, which pushes providers to squeeze the smaller programmers in order to save. A consulting firm that spoke to the Los Angeles Times reports that the WeatherChannel currently charges 13 cents per subscriber, per month.
This isn’t the first time the WeatherChannel has been subtly threatened by a distributor. Three years ago, Dish Network utilized the same strategy (carrying the WeatherChannel’s smaller rival, WeatherNation), to demonstrate it’s willingness to drop the WeatherChannel while the two were in the midst of negotiations. The two eventually reached an agreement, and viewers never lost WeatherChannel programming, the Los Angeles Times says.
The WeatherChannel isn’t oblivious to it’s “weakest link” position on distributors’ radar, either; the station has recently made a serious effort to appeal to a broader audience, recruiting popular faces like Good Morning America’s Sam Champion from ABC News to host his own morning show. The station has also switched up it’s executives, with a renewed focus on hiring those with entertainment experience. David Clark, who formerly worked for both Fuse and MTV, was recently hired at the station’s new president, and Sandy Grushow, a former Fox Television Chair, was added to the WeatherChannel’s board of directors, according to the Los Angeles Times.
One of the WeatherChannel’s most difficult challenges has been it’s viewership, which fluctuates wildly according to, well, the weather. The station averages just over 200,000 viewers, but during say, Superstorm Sandy, the station averaged a viewership of nearly 1.5 million people in, and at least 40 million people tuned in for at least a few minutes of the storm coverage, per the Los Angeles Times. As a result, the WeatherChannel has attempted to branch out from it’s usual weather forecasts to include more weather-related nonfiction programming, such as Highway Through Hell, which “focuses on a team of heavy rescue operators,” according to the WeatherChannel’s website, and Breaking Ice, which documents the travels of ships through ice-covered waters.