Storms Ahead: Dish To Drop Weather Channel

Dish Network expected to pull the plug on The Weather Channel at 12:01 a.m. Eastern Friday, as the satellite TV operator becomes the first major distributor to drop the 28-year-old cable mainstay.

Instead, Dish will introduce The Weather Cast, a new 24-hour weather service featuring "live round-the-clock weather reporting, interactive forecasting, and real-time national storm tracking."

The Weather Cast will replace The Weather Channel on channel 214. Dish counted 14.3 million satellite TV customers at the end of March.

According to Dish, The Weather Channel "has recently moved away from weather reporting to a mix of movies and other entertainment-focused programming."

"Our customers always tell us that the only thing they want in a weather channel is weather reporting," Dave Shull, Dish Network senior vice president of programming, said in a statement. "We believe The Weather Cast is the best available weather service in America."

In a statement, The Weather Channel said, "Despite negotiations over the past several months, Dish has chosen to be the first distributor to drop The Weather Channel, rather than pay the standard industry rates others in the industry have already agreed to pay."

The programmer continued, "We are disappointed with their decision and hopeful that we can still reach an agreement with Dish Network and bring this highly valued network back to its customers. In the meantime, we are urging our viewers to contact Direct TV or their local cable or telco provider to receive The Weather Channel."

The Weather Channel is owned by a consortium made up of NBC Universal and the private equity firms The Blackstone Group and Bain Capital.

The Weather Cast is being produced by WeatherNation LLC, a startup based in Excelsior, Minn., in conjunction with other partners.

On a site Dish set up on the issue, the satellite operator said that "our contract with The Weather Channel is expiring and they are demanding unreasonable contract terms that would impact customer pricing. We felt that the pending contract expiration presented an ideal opportunity to respond to feedback from customers who have been asking for better weather programming."

Dish said that unlike The Weather Channel, its Weather Cast service is "100%" devoted to weather reporting.

"There are no movies, no wake up shows and no stories about storms.... The Weather Channel is customized for cable and has never offered satellite customers the localization they require," Dish said in announcing the change.