UPDATED: 4:30 PM: The Weather Channel declined comment when contacted by Deadline, but Comcast has issued a response to WeatherNation’s petition to the FCC opposing the cable giant’s planned merger with Time Warner Cable: “Comcast carries over 160 independent programmers and has continued to increase our carriage of independent programming after the NBCUniversal acquisition. The amount of multichannel video subscribers that Comcast will have after this deal is below a level the courts have found twice does not hinder competition. 70% of multichannel subscribers nationwide will belong to other companies, more than enough the courts have ruled for programmers to not face issues. Comcast NBCUniversal does not manage or operate The Weather Channel.”
PREVIOUSLY: An upstart channel claims Comcast is trying to control the weather — or at least the way it’s reported. WeatherNation, the cable, broadcast and satellite weather service, that got a huge boost during DirecTV’s blackout of the Weather Channel, has filed a petition with the FCC railing against the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger. The filing claims the link-up “would give Comcast the power to pronounce a death sentence against WeatherNation” by preventing carriage of the channel on the merged cable systems. WeatherNation reaches 30 million U.S. households — two-thirds of them through DirecTV. By comparison, the Weather Channel, which launched in 1982, reaches about 100 million American households.
“The merger would specifically allow Comcast and the Weather Channel to foreclose both local and national carriage on the merged entity’s cable systems,” the 4-year-old service said. “It would also permit Comcast and the Weather Channel to interfere with the online access of the merged entity’s broadband subscribers to WeatherNation. Because meteorological online video providers such as WeatherNation need broad national penetration to be viable, such interference would likely mount a fatal blow for WeatherNation’s service.” (Read the full filing here.)
WeatherNation got its closeup late last year when DirecTV blacked out the Weather Channel in a carriage dispute and replaced it with the lesser-known service. As both sides blamed each other for the blackout, WeatherNation was the sole provider of weather news for the satellite giant’s customers. The carriage dispute was resolved in April, and WeatherNation and the Weather Channel have co-existed on side-by-side channels on DirecTV since.
But their relationship has been stormy since WeatherNation debuted on DirecTV in December, positioned on channel 361, right next to The Weather Channel on 362. According to WeatherNation, the big chill set in when Weather Services International – a company owned by the Weather Channel that is the leading supplier of weather video graphics and data feeds to video and digital weather services – tried to freeze WeatherNation out.
“On December 16, 2013, WeatherNation debuted on DirecTV, positioned right next to The Weather Channel on DirecTV’s programming guide,” the FCC petition reads. “But the very next day, on December 17, 2013, the Weather Channel (through WSI) engaged in what seemed an attempt to use its leverage over a critical input to stifle the new competition. It sent WeatherNation what amounted to a take-it-or-leave-it, non-negotiable draft of an agreement. … The draft demanded a rate that would effectively be 57.5-times the rate applicable under the previous agreement. That increase would have driven WeatherNation out of business.”
Monday was the FCC’s deadline for first round of comments about the proposed Comcast-TWC deal. Netflix also filed a petition yesterday voicing its displeasure with the planned merger.