Dish Network Holds Off on Plan to Replace Weather Channel in Fee Dispute

Dish Network Corp. is holding off on its plan to stop carrying NBC Universal’s Weather Channel as the two companies negotiate a new contract.

Dish, the second-largest U.S. satellite-TV provider, is broadcasting the channel today after saying yesterday that the company would drop it in favor of Dish’s own network, dubbed “The Weather Cast,” featuring interactive forecasts. The Weather Channel encouraged Dish’s 14 million subscribers to switch to other pay-TV providers if a fee agreement couldn’t be reached.

Pay-TV providers like Dish are trying to keep costs low, while content providers are raising fees to boost sales, leading to disputes. The Food Network, Walt Disney Co.’s ABC and News Corp.’s Fox all threatened to go dark or be dropped from TV viewing lineups if cable or satellite providers didn’t pay up.

“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 Weather Channel said in a statement yesterday.

Pay-TV providers pay an average of 12 cents a month per subscriber for the Weather Channel, according to research firm SNL Kagan. Francie Bauer, a spokeswoman for Dish, and Shirley Powell, a Weather Channel spokeswoman, both declined to comment on the status of the negotiations.

The Weather Channel has been adding entertainment programming and movies, something Dish customers don’t want, Dave Shull, Dish’s senior vice president for programming, said in a statement yesterday.

General Electric Co.’s NBC Universal bought the Weather Channel in 2008 for $3.5 billion with Bain Capital LLC and Blackstone Group LP, and reduced the value of its stake in the third quarter of 2009.

GE, based in Fairfield, Connecticut, rose 16 cents to $16.42 at 4 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. Dish climbed 22 cents to $21.03 in Nasdaq Stock Market trading.

Comcast Corp., the Philadelphia-based cable operator that is buying control of NBC Universal, gained 24 cents to $17.03.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kelly Riddell in Washington at kriddell1@bloomberg.net

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