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DirecTV says it will no longer carry Versus network

The network that carries the NHL, Tour de France and some Pac-10 football games is in a negotiating dispute with the satellite TV giant.

August 22, 2009|Diane Pucin

For the last couple of days, DirecTV satellite television subscribers have been seeing a crawl if they've watched any Versus network programming telling them that as of Aug. 31, DirecTV will no longer carry Versus.

For college football and NHL fans who get their television through DirecTV, this could be bad news.

Five Pacific 10 Conference games (as yet undetermined) as well as an assortment of Big 12 and Mountain West games, and an NHL package of 54 games could become unavailable to DirecTV subscribers just when those seasons start. The first Pac-10 game on the Versus schedule will be Sept. 26.

According to Versus, it is now seen in 75 million homes. Besides college football and the NHL, Versus is the home of the Tour de France, IRL auto racing and cage fighting.

Robert Mercer, director of public relations for DirecTV, said: "Versus' overall ratings are poor and have not increased nearly enough to justify what we're paying them, let alone the significant increase they're asking for.

"It is a significant rate hike and the deal is discriminatory because Versus is not offering the same package options as other distributors."

Versus is owned by Comcast, a cable carrier that competes with DirecTV. Versus responded in a statement released Friday that said it has added "many marquee properties" and has become "the fastest-growing sports cable network in the country."

According to Nielsen ratings numbers, Versus is averaging 3,000 more viewers at any given time since rebranding itself from the Outdoor Life Network to Versus in 2006-2007. On DirecTV, Versus ranks 61st among 74 English-advertising supported cable networks.

Duane Lindberg, who handles the Pac-10 television contracts, said he had been unaware of the DirecTV-Versus dispute. "It's in our best interests to have Versus be as widely distributed as possible," he said.

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diane.pucin@latimes.com

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