Contract Dispute Blacks Out The Weather Channel Again, This Time On FiOS

Bad storms are once again brewing for The Weather Channel. The latest in a maelstrom of recent carriage contract disputes has seen the cable standby booted off of Verizon FiOS systems… and there doesn’t appear to be a quick resolution out on the horizon.

5.6 million FiOS subscribers woke up this morning to discover The Weather Channel no longer in their lineups, either on the set-top box or on the FiOS mobile app. Verizon sent a message to their customers explaining the change, saying only, “Verizon’s agreements to carry The Weather Channel and Weather Scan have expired, and have not been renewed.” In their place, FiOS viewers will now find the AccuWeather Network and the WeatherBug app.

If it sounds like this happens to The Weather Channel kind of a lot, well, that’s because it does. Jim Cantore’s storm-chasing glory was blacked out on DirecTV for three solid months in 2014 when the two could not agree on contract terms.

It’s a tricky cycle The Weather Channel’s stuck in: they want more money to generate more programming to be worth more money. But in the modern era, many fewer of us use cable TV for our weather forecasts. Instead, we use websites or our phones or websites on our phones. And nobody really wants to watch the “reality” programming that The Weather Channel has been running.

The content companies that have the most leverage in disputes with distributors are the companies that provide content viewers can’t get elsewhere, and have a devoted fan base willing to make a stink — and to take their business elsewhere — if their channel goes away. (ESPN and Fox News both come to mind.) The Weather Channel might have had that leverage five, ten, or twenty years ago but isn’t in as strong a position now.

Also no doubt at play: The Weather Channel is an NBCUniversal network, meaning its parent company is Comcast. If Verizon (or DirecTV, or any other programming distributor) doesn’t want to line its competitors’ pockets, well, for once you can’t really blame them.

The Weather Channel responded to a request for comment saying, “We were disappointed when, without warning late yesterday, March 9, Verizon FiOS dropped The Weather Channel from their lineup while our companies continued to be in active conversations regarding a contract renewal.” They added, “During a winter with record-breaking storms and severe weather, The Weather Channel responded with non-stop live coverage, including the ongoing presence of our crews reporting live from hard-hit communities within the Verizon FiOS footprint. … After recently renewing carriage agreements with NCTC, Cox and Time Warner Cable, we are surprised Verizon FiOS would deny their subscribers access to the best live weather coverage and expertise that only The Weather Channel can provide. We urge FiOS customers to contact Verizon and voice their displeasure.”

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