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DirecTV drops Versus

Above is the image you’ll see if you’re a DirectTV customer trying to tune into Versus to watch some WEC action. As they threatened, DirecTV cut off access to the channel yesterday because Versus’ daddy Comcast wanted 26 cents per customer instead of the current 21. Here’s DirecTV’s side of the story, which they paint as Comcast trying to gouge them:

“They (Comcast) regularly try to charge us amounts well in excess of what is fair and reasonable to carry the programming they own,” the message stated. “Their reason is obvious: They want to stifle competition from DirecTV. Comcast’s unfair terms undermines DirecTV’s ability to offer our customers the best possible value. If we simply accept these terms, we would have to absorb the unreasonable costs Comcast wants to charge us, and in turn we will be forced to increase the rates our customers pay. We do not want this to happen. In fact, Comcast has forced us to remove Versus because we would not accept the terms they demanded.”

On the other side, Comcast says this isn’t even about the money, it’s about getting stuffed away in some unpopular channel package:

“DirecTV likes to cloud the facts,” said Jamie Davis, president of Versus. Davis said DirecTV wanted to move Versus to a package that would let it reach only 6.3 million of the broadcaster’s subscribers.

DirecTV does not deny that it wants to place Versus on a tier of service with less reach, but it says Comcast already has similar arrangements with other distributors. The satellite-TV provider, in a statement, called Comcast’s position “piggish.”

You’re going to see a lot more battles like this in the future as giant media networks basically go to war against each other. The loser? Always the consumer, who’s stuck with less channels or having to subscribe to some bullshit super premium package just to get a few specific channels like Versus or HDNet.

Now onto what this means for fans of the WEC: if DirecTV sticks to it’s guns and demotes Versus as it plans, that’s a huge amount of people left without the channel and all of a sudden the WEC’s TV deal (which was only worthwile under the assumption that Versus was turning into another success story like Spike) is more of a burden than a bonus.

With the UFC struggling to wrangle up title fights for it’s PPV shows, the potential canibalization of the WEC is making more and more sense. I don’t think the WEC is losing money, but non-title UFC PPVs pull in on average 200,000 less buys than title shows. That’s a lot of money the UFC isn’t making just to keep the WEC on a channel that is suddenly a lot less awesome than it used to be.