SBD/Issue 240/Sports Media

DirecTV Drops Versus From System As Carriage Dispute Continues

Weeks Of Fruitless Negotiations Lead To
DirecTV Kicking Versus Off Its System
DirecTV kicked Versus off its system at midnight last night, following weeks of fruitless negotiations between the nation's second-largest video provider and the Comcast-owned sports network. The move drops Versus' household distribution by about 14 million homes, putting it at about 61.5 million homes. By comparison, ESPN and ESPN2 are in about 99 million homes, Golf Channel is in 81 million and Speed is in 74 million. DirecTV's move came just after midnight, as Versus was ending a showing of the movie "Any Given Sunday." Within 15 minutes, both sides e-mailed statements outlining their positions. Essentially, DirecTV is complaining that Versus wants too much money for a network, making a point to highlight the network's paid programming and hunting-and-fishing blocks, which DirecTV said sometimes makes up 10 hours of the channel's 24-hour schedule. Versus' rate is around $0.27-0.29 per subscriber per month. The two also are at odds about where to house the network. Versus wants to be part of DirecTV's Total Choice tier. DirecTV says it should be on a lower tier, citing the network's carriage deal with Dish Network. "Comcast has set a market with arms length negotiations with these other distributors and DIRECTV expects equal treatment," DirecTV said. Versus counters by saying it is seeking "a comparable level of distribution as it does today at the same market price that other operators are paying." The two sides expect to continue to negotiate this month, in the run-up to the NHL season. The NHL provides Versus with its most important and highest-rated programming (John Ourand, Staff Writer).  View Versus' and DirecTV's full statements. 

DIGGING IN: FANHOUSE.com's Michael Smith writes it "doesn't make sense for DirecTV to risk losing subscribers who would switch to cable for Versus, and it doesn't make sense for Versus to lose all the viewers who will stick with DirecTV. But there could be a lengthy battle between DirecTV and Versus before the resolution comes" (FANHOUSE.com, 9/1).

UPCOMING SPORTING EVENTS ON VERSUS
DATE
EVENT
9/12
NCAA Football: Texas-Wyoming
9/19
IndyCar: Indy Japan 300
9/19
NCAA Football: Florida State-BYU
10/1
NHL (Opening Night): Capitals-Bruins
10/10
IndyCar Championship: Firestone Indy 300
10/10
WEC: Light Heavyweight Championship
10/17
NCAA Football: Colorado State-TCU
10/24
NCAA Football: TCU-BYU
10/30
PBR: Built Ford Tough World Finals
10/31
NCAA Football: UNLV-TCU


 

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