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Weather Channel Will Return To DirectTV

The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore reporting from Manhattan's Battery Park during Hurricane Irene in August 2011.
Jonathan Saruk/The Weather Channel
Getty Images
The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore reporting from Manhattan's Battery Park during Hurricane Irene in August 2011.

The Weather Channel will return to DIRECTV on Wednesday, ending a three month dispute which saw the cable channel yanked from the satellite television system reaching 20 million subscribers.

But the new agreement comes with a price: the Weather Channel has agreed to cut back its reality programming by half during weekdays, restore instant local weather and allow DIRECTV subscribers to watch the cable channel on a range of devices in and out of their homes.

Disputes over rates paid by cable TV and satellite systems to carry channels – often referred to as carriage agreements – are nothing new (In this case, the Weather Channel sought an extra penny per subscriber, per month).

But this is a rare case of a major channel agreeing to change its programming to resolve a conflict with a satellite TV provider, which could set a precedent for disputes to come.

"We feel the customers' voice was heard," said DIRECTV spokesman Darris Gringeri. "One of our biggest points was, we don't want to pay for a channel, when much of it is reality programming."

The Weather Channel was dropped from DIRECTV back in January, amid complaints from the satellite TV service that more than 40 percent of the channel's programming was filled by reality shows such as Coast Guard Alaska and Ice Pilots.

The Weather Channel accused DIRECTV of keeping lifesaving weather information from its customers in broadcasts featuring popular meteorologist Jim Cantore. DIRECTV added WeatherNation, a smaller service, to the channel slot once occupied by the Weather Channel.

Gringeri said DIRECTV will continue to feature WeatherNation after The Weather Channel returns; they have just signed a multi-year deal for the service. The Weather Channel, which recently debuted the new morning show America's Morning Headquarters with Sam Champion, will not change its primetime programming.

"Our apologies to DIRECTV and their customers for the disruption of service and for initiating a public campaign," said David Kenny, CEO of Weather Channel parent The Weather Company, in a statement. "Our viewers deserve better than a public dispute and we pledge to reward their loyalty with exceptional programming and more weather focused news."

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Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.
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