On a day when a blizzard blanketed a large chunk of the country in snow and ice, there’s a new offensive in the carriage war between DirecTV and the Weather Channel. As the blackout continued during the whiteout, TWC has fired off an open letter to the satcaster’s board (read it here). The missive, signed by the Weather Company Chairman and CEO David Kenny, urges DirecTV to waive termination fees for customers who want to switch to a provider that carries the Weather Channel. “We have heard from viewers across the country, like Heather in Texas who wrote, ‘We just signed on with DIRECTV.…Had I known this was going to happen I would NOT have signed up. I read the fine print (too late) and found that they can do that. It’s wrong.’” The letter, dated tomorrow, closes with a near-plea for expediency: “As our team of more than 220 expert meteorologists tracks winter storms, wildfires in Southern California, and many other potential weather emergencies, a prompt reply—not to me, but to your customers—would surely be appreciated.”
All this comes on the heels of the Weather Channel’s weekend session at TCA, when execs reiterated their claim that DirecTV’s blackout — which began January 14 at midnight ET. is putting Americans at risk. The Q&A with TV critics was one day at Moody’s warned that the channel’s bond rating could suffer if the satcaster dispute continues. Read TWC’s press release that accompanied its letter to DirecTV below:
On January 13, DIRECTV removed The Weather Channel from its lineup. Since then, the response from viewers has been overwhelming with millions visiting our website, http://www.keeptheweatherchannel.com. To date, more than 90,000 DIRECTV subscribers have pledged to switch their provider, but unfortunately, to do so, DIRECTV is requiring many to pay steep cancellation fees – some of the highest in the business – that range from $200 to $400.
This isn’t the first time that DIRECTV has come under fire for this issue. Some of the past issues include:
· In 2005 and 2010, DIRECTV paid $5 million and $13.25 million, respectively, following investigations by coalitions of state AGs looking at deceptive marketing practices, including around cancellation fees;
· In 2008, DIRECTV was targeted by a class action lawsuit related to cancellation fees
· In 2010, the Better Business Bureau reported that it had received nearly 40,000 complaints about DIRECTV with a significant portion of those aimed at cancellation fees. The BBB felt compelled to issue a warning to consumers to carefully review their service contracts before signing up with DIRECTV.
The Weather Channel believes that DIRECTV’s actions are unfair and anti-consumer. We have heard from thousands of angry consumers who agree with us. DIRECTV chose to remove The Weather Channel without notifying its customers, thereby lowering the value of their service while at the same time still raising rates on their subscribers by 4.4% in 2014 on average. The Weather Channel believes that as a result of these actions, consumers should be able to vote with their feet without penalty.
Tomorrow, The Weather Channel will run full-page ads in The New York Times, LA Times, The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal that feature an open letter to DIRECTV’s Board from The Weather Channel’s Chairman and CEO, David Kenny, asking them to waive the fees for those customers looking to switch. A copy of that letter can be found here.