DirecTV has been in negotiations with Versus over the fee that Versus charges for DirecTV to carry their channel. Yesterday was the last day of their previous contract and no agreement was reached, so as of now the final two IndyCar races of the season will not be available to DirecTV subscribers.
The argument between the two companies boils down like this. DirecTV says Versus cannot justify the price increase they are asking for DirecTV to carry them. Versus claims they have added significant value to their network which merits the price increase. Also muddying the waters is the fact that Versus is wholly owned by Comcast, a cable TV provider that is in direct competition with DirecTV.
I would agree with Versus that they certainly have diversified their lineup of programming over the last few years. To go along with their Outdoor Channel rooted hunting and fishing programs, they have added professional bull fighting, Big 12 college football, the Tour De France, extreme octagon fighting, NHL and IndyCar. But that alone can’t mitigate the fact that DirecTV is in competition with Comcast and does not want to pay higher fees for their channel.
The unfortunate truth is that the IndyCar series was forced into a bad situation last year when ESPN/ABC warned that they were not going to show all the races this season. Versus was the only network that was willing to pay a hefty sum for the rights to show the remaining events. While clearly the Versus broadcast is far superior to anything we have seen out of ABC/ESPN in the last decade, the fact remains that Versus is a struggling newcomer network that is trying to make a play for national prominence, while they are anchored to Comcast. I think it is safe to say that we are seeing the potential worst case scenario downside to the IRL’s contract with Versus.
If I were a DirecTV subscriber, I wouldn’t freak out and change subscribers just yet. We have 19 days until the next IndyCar race. But I would not hesitate to call and inform them that you will be dropping them unless they pick it back up again. If we get to the Motegi race weekend and the deal still isn’t hashed out, then the time would be appropriate for us to don our peasant apparel and take up pitchforks and torches. But we won’t be alone, since all the Hockey and bull riding fans will be joining us.