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DirecTV and Weather Channel ink carriage deal, ending dispute

The storm between the Weather Channel and DirecTV has finally cleared. 

The network will return to the satellite television provider on Wednesday, the companies said, following a carriage dispute that had left the channel blacked out for DirecTV's 20 million customers since January. 

As part of the deal, the Weather Channel agreed to scale back on the amount of so-called reality programming it carries. One of the reasons DirecTV cited when dropping the channel was that it had moved too far away from its core mission of being a weather service.

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The loss of DirecTV was a huge blow to the Weather Channel, which tried unsuccessfully to launch a nasty public campaign against the satellite broadcaster to bring it back to the negotiating table. The Weather Channel went so far as to accuse DirecTV of putting lives at risk and encouraged viewers to contact their congressional representatives to complain.

In a statement, the Weather Channel apologized for its attempt to get lawmakers and consumers to go after DirecTV.

"Our apologies to DirecTV and their customers for the disruption of our service and for initiating a public campaign," said David Kenny, chief executive of the Weather Co., parent of the Weather Channel, in a statement on Tuesday. "Our viewers deserve better than a public dispute and we pledge to reward their loyalty with exceptional programming and more weather focused news."

After dropping the Weather Channel, DirecTV added WeatherNation, a smaller channel also aimed at weather enthusiasts. DirecTV recently signed a multi-year deal with WeatherNation, which costs far less than the more-established Weather Channel.

"It’s a shame these disputes are played out on a public stage, but I’m pleased that we’ve been able to work together with The Weather Channel in a way that will benefit everyone," said DirecTV's chief content officer, Dan York, in a statement.

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The sign that a new agreement between the Weather Channel and DirecTV was potentially in the works came Monday when the satellite broadcaster and the hotel chain Hilton Worldwide announced a deal that will get DirecTV's service into half a million guest rooms in the United States. 

Hilton Worldwide Holdings is owned by the private equity firm Blackstone Group, which also has a large stake in the Weather Channel. Other Weather Channel owners include Bain Capital and Comcast Corp.'s NBCUniversal.

The Weather Channel had said it was seeking a modest increase in the subscription fees DirecTV was paying. According to industry consulting firm SNL Kagan, the average fee for the Weather Channel is 13 cents per-subscriber, per-month. However, since DirecTV is such a large distributor, its rate is actually lower than that.

The willingness to change much of its programming strategy and the separate Hilton deal, made DirecTV more willing to reach a new accord with the Weather Channel, a person with knowledge of the matter said. 

For the Weather Channel, getting its programming back in front of DirecTV's 20 million subscribers is crucial. The network recently launched a new three-hour morning show hosted by former "Good Morning America" meteorologist Sam Champion. 

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ryan.faughnder@latimes.com

Twitter: @rfaughnder

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