More DirecTV and Versus

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Updated: Oct. 2, 2009. 12:17.

In disputes between cable operators and networks, there’s always a lot of rhetoric, and it usually includes some hyperbole.

Versus President Jamie Davis made a rather misleading statement Wednesday about the impact of DirecTV dropping the channel from its programming lineup, implying that there has been a mass exodus of subscribers from DirecTV to other providers.

NOTE: I’m told by Versus that this is not what Versus President Jamie Davis meant to suggest. See below for more explanation.

Davis said the following: “Other operators have stepped up to the plate. They’ve recognized the value of our programming and people like Dish Network have added 9 million additional subscribers that weren’t getting Versus before Sept. 1 who are now getting it and other cable operators around the country have added another million, bringing an additional 10 million subscribers to Versus who were not getting it before Sept. 1. Despite DirecTV dropping our network on the first of September, we’ve made up the majority of the lost subscribers.”

A cursory look at that statement makes it seem like as many as 10 million people have switched from DirecTV to other providers because of the Versus dispute. Count me among the reporters who originally took the statement at face value and wrote about it.

[What David was trying to say, according to a network spokesman, was that Dish Network and some other cable providers have added Versus to their basic programming lineups in the last month, and the result has been that there are as many as 10 million people who are now seeing Versus for the first time. He did not mean to suggest 10 million people have switched to those providers.]

But this obviously can’t be true, as that would suggest DirecTV has lost more than half of its 18 million subscribers.
Other providers may have added 10 million people, but it seems unlikely they did so just to get Versus. Dish Network, for instance, has been marketing itself heavily as a lower-cost option to DirecTV and may be realizing the results of that campaign. Other providers may be adding subscribers because they have good deals on high-definition programming or DVR. It’s also possible that some of the new subscribers to one provider may have come from somewhere other than DirecTV. Whether these new subscribers were getting Versus before is impossible to know.
I know anecdotally that some people have switched from DirecTV to other providers because of this dispute. And DirecTV may very well see a decline in subscribers overall as a result of this. But the exodus can’t be nearly as severe as Versus is implying.

After more careful reading of Davis’ remarks and the explanation from Versus, it does appear I misinterpreted what he was trying to say. It’s clear was off base in my analysis.

It should be noted that the Dish Network’s move to add Versus is for three months and not necessarily permanent.

Stay tuned for further updates as we try to find out if DirecTV and Versus are moving toward an agreement.

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