DirecTV Blacks Out Versus in Rate Dispute

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The start of the 2009-10 NHL campaign is a few weeks away, but there already is a fight that could impact the season.

According to the Sporting News, fans with DirecTV might not be able see games broadcast on Versus. DirecTV shut off the Versus signal at midnight Tuesday after failing to reach an agreement on the fee DirecTV would pay to carry Versus.

"Versus is no longer available on this channel," read a DirecTV statement on the screen that would have offered Versus programming. "Comcast, which owns Versus, has forced us to take down the channel because we will not submit to their unfair and outrageous demands."

Versus' rate reportedly is around $0.27-0.29 per subscriber per month. DirecTV’s Web site claims Versus is seeking a 20 percent increase.

Versus released a response: “We are disappointed that DirecTV has chosen to remove Versus from its service and deny its subscribers access to our all-encompassing coverage of the sports they love.”

Versus is asking customers to send an e-mail to DirecTV “demanding they keep Versus.”

Versus features diverse programming from the Tour de France to rodeo to college football, but NHL hockey is one of its main drivers. The network is the league’s primary television partner in the United States and is scheduled to air 54 NHL regular-season games this year, beginning Oct. 1 with the Bruins’ opener against the Capitals.

That game is exclusively on Versus. Unless DirecTV and Versus come to an agreement before then, Bruins fans who have DirecTV won’t be able to watch the game — or any others after that.

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