Weather Channel dropped by DirecTV, takes fight to social media

About 20 million DirecTV customers nationwide lost The Weather Channel because of a dispute over fees between the channel and the satellite service.

The two companies pointed fingers at each other late Monday as a midnight EST deadline for renegotiation of carriage fees paid by DirecTV to The Weather Channel passed without an agreement.

The Weather Channel took the dispute to social media, asking viewers to tweet their support for The Weather Channel with the hashtag #stormDIRECTV.

Many fans of the channel tweeted pleas to keep The Weather Channel or threats of subscription cancellations.

“You took @weatherchannel - you lost another customer. I’m calling to cancel services in T minus 20 minutes. #stormDIRECTV,” tweeted @euskodiac.

The Weather Channel considers its social media campaign a success, with more than 130,000 clicks to its Twitter and Facebook ads.

As of Monday, the #StormDirecTV had been used more than 3,000 times, The Weather Channel told Digiday. A Keep The Weather Channel website that was set up to drum up support for the channel had gotten more than a million unique visits.

Not every use of the hashtag was in support of The Weather Channel, though. By Tuesday afternoon, many of the most popular tweets using the hashtag were negative.

“I am awake! How many people died because TWC went off DirecTV?! …none? They are using local news stations? Perfect! #stormDIRECTV,” tweeted @Otaku2012.

“Was thrilled to see that @weatherchannel wasn’t on DirectTV this morning, but an alternative channel with actual weather was. #stormDIRECTV,” tweeted @FromTheBarn.

In a statement, David Kenny, CEO of the channel’s parent company, The Weather Co., said it offered DirecTV the best rate for its programming. Kenny accused the satellite provider of putting profits ahead of public safety.

“We are not looking for a large fee increase,” Kenny said, just a “fair deal” that allows for continued investment in science and technology to deliver weather news and stories to viewers.

DirecTV called the loss of The Weather Channel “regrettable” but added that it would continue to provide weather news on its WeatherNation channel.

According to a statement from Dan York, DirecTV chief content officer, the two sides haven’t stopped talking.

DirecTV is discussing an agreement to return the channel to its lineup at “the right value for our customers,” York said. The Weather Channel did not immediately respond early Tuesday to a request for comment, but the channel’s president, Dave Clark, said the opposite of York on Twitter.

“There are NO discussions happening with DirecTV, sadly. The @weatherchannel is off permanently. TY for switching. #stormDIRECTV,” he tweeted.

At a news conference Saturday, Clark asked viewers to urge Congress to intervene in the business dispute. As of Monday, more than 43,000 emails and 200,000 calls to Congress had been made, the channel told Digiday.

The channel is part of the NBC Universal stable of networks and is owned by Comcast Corp., the nation’s largest cable company.

“Yes, it is a privately held company and a for-profit” enterprise, Clark said. “That’s OK. What also happens to be true is that we have a mission to serve.”

DirecTV spokesman Robert Mercer said that the satellite service launched its own service, WeatherNation, in response to consumer complaints about the amount of reality programs that The Weather Channel airs instead of weather forecasting.

Local weather information also is available on local network affiliates offered by DirecTV, and during severe weather, the system also makes its emergency channels available for weather programming, he said.

Stephanie Grimes contributed to this report. Find her on Twitter: @steph_grimes