Powered by i.TV
October 9, 2015

Weather Channel vs. Dish Network: Storm Warning for Viewers

by Gary Susman, posted May 25th 2010 2:00PM
Last week's dispute between the Weather Channel and Dish Network seems to have been resolved, with the Weather Channel getting most of what it wanted from the satellite service provider.

But the underlying issues -- whether the Weather Channel's new entertainment programming is doing a dangerous disservice to viewers when major storms loom, and the increasing pressure from cable channels for greater fee concessions from service providers -- are far from resolved and are only going to get worse in the months ahead.

Viewers at home should brace themselves for rough winds.

Some 14 million Dish subscribers nearly lost the Weather Channel last week when Dish threatened to drop the channel from its lineup. The stated reason: the channel's switch from its all-forecasts-all-the-time format to showing Friday night movies (some clearly weather-themed, like 'The Perfect Storm' or 'The Avengers,' some only tangentially weather-related, like 'Misery,' which opens with a blizzard).

Dish -- and some viewers -- argued that the channel was no longer providing a needed service, and Dish even threatened to create its own competing weather channel and add it to the lineup.

But the conflict was also about money, reports the Los Angeles Times, with the Weather Channel seeking an extra penny per month per subscriber in carriage fees, according to industry analyst firm SNL Kagan. That adds up to about $1.7 million per year, which Dish will presumably pass on to its customers. The demand for increased fees -- and the corresponding threat that the channel would go dark -- is a scenario that has already recurred several times this year between other channels and other cable operators, and is one that is likely to keep happening, with subscribers ultimately paying the price in the form of a bigger cable or satellite bill.

According to the New York Times, Dish Network wasn't the only source of complaints about the channel's entertainment programming; so had some viewers, and so had the network's star anchor, Jim Cantore. When viewer Patricia Vollmer voiced her anger via Twitter about the airing of a movie on April 23 instead of breaking storm news, Cantore tweeted back, "You're not alone."

Jim Cantore of The Weather ChannelThe channel told the New York Times that its policy is to interrupt the movie with breaking severe weather coverage, but it doesn't necessarily follow that policy always. On April 30, during a tornado outbreak, Cantore told his Twitter followers that the movie would be canceled, but later, he apologized to viewers, tweeting that management had misled him by telling him "we were bagging the 'movie' to do what this network was created for." The Times reports that the channel did air an alternate live feed in areas directly affected.

The Weather Channel is hardly alone in diluting its brand by adding questionable entertainment programming in order to boost ratings. Cable channels from MTV (the "M" once stood for music, you young'uns) to TLC (once The Learning Channel, now better known as home to the likes of Jon & Kate) to AMC (once upon a time, "American Movie Classics," now just general movies and original drama series like 'Mad Men'), A&E (which once stood for "Arts & Entertainment" but is now largely reality shows) to Bravo (ditto) to the History Channel (what's historical about 'Pawn Stars'?) have been trending that way for years. Still, no viewer's life or property is at risk because Bravo decides to air a 'Real Housewives' marathon instead of 'Inside the Actors Studio.'

So the Weather Channel's movement toward movies over meteorology was the pretext for Dish's threat to yank the channel and replace it with its own weathercast as of last Friday. But the hour came and went, and negotiations continued. In the end, the channel agreed to provide Dish subscribers with a second channel of just local forecasts, but it also got Dish to agree to drop the threat of a rival weather network. Perhaps more important, it got Dish to cough up that extra penny. (Dish subscribers currently pay about 11 cents per month for the channel.)

The settlement marks at least the fourth time in 2010 that a channel has gone dark, or nearly gone dark, because it's been pushing for a higher fee. There was a tussle between the Fox broadcast network and Time Warner Cable at the beginning of the year, one between Cablevision and Scripps that briefly darkened Food Network and HGTV, and one between Cablevision and ABC that was resolved moments before the Oscars, ABC's biggest program of the year, was to air. Terms of those settlements haven't been disclosed, but it seems clear that channels have been emboldened to challenge service providers and demand carriage fee increases. The Weather Channel may be adding just a penny a month to Dish subscribers' bills, but in a 500-channel universe, all those pennies can really add up.

It would be nice if, for the extra cash cable and satellite viewers will likely be paying, we'd get the unique (and sometimes, vitally useful) programming these channels were once known for, instead of just more reality shows and movie reruns.

Check out Jim Cantrone in action during a storm last year.

•Follow Gary Susman on Twitter @garysusman.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:

I completely agree with every single statement on this article! I remember when dish aired the "alternative weather
channel" last year. I was grieving over my mom's late April death, and knew she always ask why dish did not have a
regular local weather channel, like she had on cox cable. I like the channel and so would have my mom, she liked
the music on the local on the 8's. I have view the channel all the time. I like the background music and have
favorites, but will there ever be any added in the future? Exactly when did the channel air in okc?

August 29 2011 at 1:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Blouja Boy

does anyone really watch that worthless waste of air space anymore? they should rename it POS channel, to celebrate the total piece of sh*t that it now is, and forevermore will be.

October 09 2010 at 6:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
seneca shaman

When the "weather channel" started spreading the al gore lies as if they were fact - I not only stopped but also blocked it from my channel list.

June 06 2010 at 12:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
B. Ishler

Why bother with any satellite dish when there is bad weather. In Ok during the tornadoes all dish tv was down. During bad weather is when you need tv.

June 03 2010 at 8:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joan Cook

I have Dish and do not watch TWC - it's useless. I get auto updates to my computer in case of storms, high wind, and otherwise, I use the computer for regular forecasts, instant doppler - anywhere, any time. As far as I'm concerned - Dish can cancel them. I don't want to pay more and get less - which is a perfect description of TWC.

The Lady

June 03 2010 at 12:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Does anyone have Weatherscan? It's wonderful! The channel has constant weather updates, no announcers, just maps and forecasts. It's on Comcast. I can't remember the last time I watched TWC.

June 02 2010 at 8:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am deeply offended by all this.

I mean....how, how, HOW could any station think THE AVENGERS movie (not only NOT weather, but a disgrace to a great TV series) deserves to be aired ANYWHERE?!!?

Seriously...as for other stations that lost their way...try Cartoon (and some REALLY BAD Live Action, would be dead to me if not for Batman: Brave and the Bold) Network, and GSN, which used to be a reliable source to see game shows from the early '90s and back...now only shows 3-4 hours of classics on weekdays and too much modern stuff and casino and (yes) reality?

Face it, the era of the pure niche cable channels is DEAD. You need internet for real news, and DVDs for classic programming. Though I second the idea of writing to the stations en masse protesting their directions. It does work SOMETIMES (see: the CBS-FM to Jack and back affair from 2005-2007...true they play '80s now and "oldies" and "fifties" seem to be dirty-ish words, but at least the basic format is true to the original)

June 02 2010 at 7:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I too am getting to where I cannot stand twc.. The powers that be seem to be pushing hard to get more and more commercials and useless movies in instead of doing what they are paid to do...that is ..weather 24/7

Waaaaay back when , it was great...heck they cant even get the weekly planner jammed into the few seconds they are allowed.

Hurray Dish...glad someone maybe getting their attention!!..May take all of them shutting it off...I would bet they would pay attention to what PEOPLE want then.

June 02 2010 at 6:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


June 02 2010 at 6:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It looks like dish and cable bills will go up again but what I want to know is how long are we going to take this crap??? I am about done, it is not like there is any quality out there were the satelites roam!

June 02 2010 at 6:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Follow Us

From Our Partners