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Agreement Reached in DirecTV vs. Versus Fight

Satellite carrier and Comcast strike accord after nasty carriage battle

DirecTV announced Monday an agreement with Comcast to carry the Versus channel, ending an often vitriolic carriage impasse that began last summer.

“We are pleased that both sides were able to work out a satisfactory deal to bring this programming back to our customers,” said Derek Chang, executive VP of content strategy and development for the satellite company.

DirecTV stopped offering the national sports channel, which carries National Hockey League games and Ultimate Fighting Championship bouts, as well as college football and rodeo, in August. That was at the end of the last carriage deal.

DirecTV officials said Comcast’s demand for a 20 percent rate increase for the network was too much. In fact, they described Versus as “basically a paid programming and infomercial channel with occasional sporting events of interest.” It was reported that Comcast was charging DirecTV 18 cents per subscriber in the last deal.

Philadelphia-based Comcast responded with vigor, placing ads in newspapers tied to regional game telecasts, letting local readers know, “If you have DirecTV, you can’t watch this game.” The ads also directed readers how to change cable or satellite providers in order to obtain Versus.

The channel currently touts only 14 million subscribers, but has aggressively grown its base by leveraging local fanbases.

For example, Versus will typically carry one USC football game a year. That means the school’s large, loyal fanbase has to upgrade its cable or satellite package if it doesn’t want to miss that game.