I haven’t had TV service for about 4 years now. In that time I’ve almost completely lost touch with the tube-world. So, when one of skiing’s allies, The Weather Channel, was dropped from DirecTV, I assumed there would be implications for skiing but couldn’t put my finger on what they’d be. Once again, I turned to an ally of my own, Alex Kaufman (who is also becoming a well known face in this story), for his take.
On Jan 14 DirecTV dropped The Weather Channel (TWC) from their service when the two sides could not come to an agreement on the fee DirecTV pays per subscriber to carry TWC.
The previous agreement was $0.13 per subscriber. For comparison TNT garners $1.21, TBS $0.59 and ESPN $5.09. TWC asked for a penny more. DirecTV has been quoted as saying they think TWC is worth one quarter of what they’ve been getting, which is a drop that would crush the current TWC business model if adopted.
The two sides failed to bridge that large gap. Both DirecTV and TWC have a litany of reasons behind their stances, but I will mostly digress from that topic for the purposes of this post. DirecTV services 20% of all American households (100 million total) that pay for TV.
It does not need to be proven with new data that when national television shows footage of skiing, snowfall, mountains, adventure, travel hotspots and such, it’s a good thing for those in the tourism business or tourism driven areas of the country. Just ask your call center or look at your web analytics. Big snow on TV = big business for us.
This holds true whether you’re in winter sports or trying to get people to your beach resorts. Showing people in real time on national television enjoying those activities (or simply seeing deep snow in your region) is one of the top priorities of any resort or destination that has a marketing department.
To that end TWC has been a partner of tourism since its inception and it was previously the most carried channel on pay TV. That 100 million is now 80 million.
The flip side to this coin is that a significant percentage of hotel properties (could not find that stat but DirecTV markets to hotels heavily and is in the Hilton chain) have also lost the service, removing one of the most popular channels on the dial for travelers arriving in new places.
Yes, the Internet and local stations exist, but cable TV is still a ubiquitous medium and one our best friends on the dial is now missing, both for inspiring travel and for assisting the traveler upon arrival. A start up channel with (as best I can ascertain) about 5% of the resources has replaced TWC on DirecTV. It mostly loops temperature maps, doesn’t offer local forecasts and has no live coverage or interviews with those in our business (update: on Feb 10 DirecTV announced they would add an automated local forecast feature to WeatherNation).
It’s also not shown live. There are a variety of public safety arguments that can also be made, such as this one by a retired Lieutenant General who led hurricane responses or similar ones made by mayors and city councils. Same could be said for the trucking, governmental and agricultural industries.
What Can You Do?
Options range from nothing, to emailing DirecTV with your thoughts, to getting your local politician or business leader to pen an “open letter” to DirecTV urging a resumption of negotiations, which tends to get the most awareness (PR pop) and many have already done.
Tweeting or facebooking at them seems to be a black hole since complaining about TV is a national sport, but feel free to chime in on #stormdirectv.
— Jeff Lee Alexander (@JeffLAlexander) February 8, 2014
Full disclosure, I’m a bummed DirecTV subscriber and weather geek that spent nearly a decade trying to get people to take ski trips. Getting live coverage on TWC was always one of our top priorities and very accomplishable when newsworthy. Based on how often you see footage or interviews from Vail, Aspen, Park City, Mammoth, Killington, Sun Valley, etc, and of course our pal Halley O’Brien on TWC, it remains a valuable outlet.
We, as an industry, owe them a bit of support. Not to get them paid a certain rate per-se, but to at least urge the resumption of good faith negotiations for our own economic self-interest. The more people are watching TWC, the better it is for tourism and regions that rely on it.
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