Updated on 12/15/2021:
DirecTV has restored the History Channel and three other A+E Networks to the base tier bundles of legacy customers following a subscriber backlash on social media, an A+E rep told Next TV.
DirecTV still hasn't responded to Next TV's email inquiry, but the A+E rep said legacy DirecTV "Entertainment" tier customers who had History Channel, A&E, Vice and Lifetime Movies removed from their programming grid over the weekend had it restored by Wednesday morning.
According to a source familiar with DirecTV's operations, the recently spun-off satellite TV company was "experimenting" with a new strategy intended to reduce its program licensing costs.
On Sunday, DirecTV said it was trimming "select" networks, including the History Channel, from the programming bundles of subscribers who aren't watching them.
"We recently informed customers who have not actively engaged in History and other select channels that the content will no longer appear in their lineup," DirecTV said in a statement. "Any interested customers who are not seeing it yet want to add it back at no additional cost can visit www.directv.com/channel-opt-in.”
DirecTV, which was recently spun off from AT&T and is now a joint venture between the telecom and private equity firm TPG, made the admission on Sunday, when Next TV asked the company about longtime History Channel critic Sen. Chuck Grassley's (R-Iowa) Twitter complaint about History suddenly being removed from his DirecTV channel lineup.
Turns out, some DirecTV customers were notified in October that History Channel, A&E Network, Vice and Lifetime Movies would be removed on Dec. 8 unless they visited the opt-in page and asked to keep them on their grids. Hat tip to longtime satellite TV business tracker Phillip Swann for unearthing customer complaints about this on Satellite Guys message boards.
According to our inside source, the A+E channels have long resided in DirecTV's Entertainment tier, where they have "over-indexed" in audience performance. However, since A+E is a "little guy" relative to today's consolidated media landscape on basic cable, and lacks news and sports. DirecTV might have felt A+E was a good test subject to try out a new scheme to cut down on the cost of paying for subscribers who weren't watching the channels.
"They were basically trying a la carte distribution," the source said.
We circled back with DirecTV Monday and find out more about the policy, but again, we didn't hear back. DirecTV is no longer offering the four A+E Networks in its $64.99-a-month base "Entertainment" bundle for new customers. But they are included in the $69.99 Choice packages, the $84.99 Ultimate and $134.99 Premier bundles.
NEXT TV NEWSLETTER
The smarter way to stay on top of the streaming and OTT industry. Sign up below.
Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!