Friday, September 04, 2009

Direc-TVly speaking

Interesting doings at DirecTV, which is one of the largest distributors of sports content (including the increasingly popular NFL Sunday Ticket).

Found out Friday that DirecTV has swapped out some sports channels in its Total Choice package. Gone is ESPN Classic, which is bad for nostalgia buffs, although in recent years ESPN has really stretched the meaning of the word "classic." (The 2007 World Series of Poker a classic?) It's replaced by other channels, including ESPNU (more college football!) and even the NHL Network, which this blog once upon a time criticized for not offering its programming for free.

More interesting, but more problematic for the NHL, is DirecTV's decision to drop the Versus Network, which is the prime carrier of NHL games in the U.S. In its statement, DirecTV noted, "Comcast, which owns Versus, has forced us to take down the channel because we will not agree to their ridiculous demands that simply do not reflect current market valuations for their programming." DirecTV went on to call Comcast "piggish" for asking for a 20% hike in subscriber rates for what it called essentially "informercial" programming with a little sports thrown in. (Versus currently gets about 18 cents per subscriber; for ESPN, it's $4 per subscriber).

The move means that DirecTV subscribers will not have access to Versus's weekly college football lineup and Indy Car series races, but it could mean more television headaches for the NHL, which had its most successful season on Versus just last year. Versus, which was available in 75 million homes until the dump, now loses about 18 million homes.

Who loses? Everybody, including DirecTV, Comcast, Versus ... and especially the poor NHL.


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