DirecTV, Versus Settle Carriage Dispute

Seven months into a carriage dispute that saw DirecTV pulling Comcast’s Versus from its menu, the two sides have finally come to terms on a new deal.

Although terms were not disclosed, it would appear that Versus has thrown in the towel on its bid to get onto DirecTV’s Total Choice Tier, the satellite operator’s most widely distributed programming package. Per a release issued Monday evening, Versus will return to the same lineup it occupied on Sept. 1, 2009, when it was kicked off DirecTV systems.

By the same token, Versus may have been able to secure a higher sub fee in exchange for continuing to appear on a lower tier. The network’s going rate is around 27 cents per subscriber per month.

At the time the dispute reached critical mass, DirecTV was alerting subscribers to the possibility of a blackout, saying that Comcast was looking for a 20 percent rate hike.

The blackout cost Versus around 14 million homes, leaving its overall distribution at approximately 61.5 million households. The loss of those DirecTV subs may have been a contributing factor in Versus’ declining college football ratings during the 2009 campaign. Per Nielsen, Versus’ slate of 25 college football games averaged 326,000 viewers, down 8 percent from 353,000 in the previous season.

Despite the diminution of its sub base, Versus’ NHL deliveries seem to have held up, as the network’s hockey deliveries are up slightly from the 2008-09 campaign.

The agreement puts Versus back in DirecTV homes just in time for the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, which begin next month. “We’re excited that we were able to come to a fair agreement that puts Versus back in millions of homes with DirecTV in time for our busy spring programming schedule,” said Jamie Davis, president of Versus, by way of announcing the deal. “We look forward to super-serving these fans with NHL regular-season and playoff coverage…and much more.”