Comcast and DirecTV finally strike deal for sports channel Versus

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Hockey and cycling fans can rejoice. Comcast’s sports channel Versus is back on DirecTV.

The two companies struck a new deal for Versus, ending an ugly dispute that kept the network off of the satellite broadcaster for almost seven months, including much of the college football season, during which Versus shows some games from the Pac-10 and other conferences. Versus returns to DirecTV ahead of the network’s coverage of NHL playoff games next month.

Depending on whom you ask, the issue was either money or platform. DirecTV, the satellite broadcaster with over 18.5 million subscribers, called Comcast ‘piggish’ in wanting a price increase from 21 cents to 26 cents per-month, per-subscriber.

Comcast countered that the fight wasn’t about money. It said it was upset that DirecTV wanted to move Versus from a package of channels that reached the bulk of its customers to a specialty tier that reaches 6.3 million subscribers.


Under the new deal, Versus will stay on its current tier, and other terms of the pact are similar to the one that had expired last summer.

The two sides had been deadlocked until recently when Mike White, the new DirecTV chief executive, got involved in the process. The companies also resolved carriage disputes over a couple of regional sports networks owned by Comcast in Northern California and New England.

Ironically, while Comcast was mad at the idea of DirecTV moving its sports channel to a tier with fewer subscribers that would mean not only a cut in subscriber fees but also smaller ratings and ad revenue, it is having similar feuds with other sports channels. The Tennis Channel, for example, wants Comcast to put it on a bigger tier that reaches more subscribers. Comcast also had a long fight with the NFL over its cable network. Comcast originally put the network on a sports package that reached just 3 million homes until moving it last year to a tier that hits 11 million homes.

-- Joe Flint

Related post: Comcast and DirecTV fight over Versus.