The president of the Versus network says DirecTV was not asked to pay more for Versus and had planned to move the network to a lower tier before the satellite provider dropped Versus from its lineup last month.
Jamie Davis, addressing media before the IndyCar season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, said the dispute between Versus and DirecTV has cost Versus 14 million viewers, but the network has made up 10 million of those subscribers through other satellite providers and cable companies.
The IndyCar TV package on Versus has come under scrutiny because of low ratings. The average of viewers per race has been well below 500,000 viewers this season, a number that has team owners and sponsors nervous.
“DirecTV wanted to re-tier Versus; that's what this whole dispute is about,” Davis said. “We were unwilling to have our broadcasts taken away from subscribers.”
DirecTV dropped Versus from its programming shortly after the Chicago race in late August, saying Versus' parent company, Comcast, was asking too much for Versus in its contract renegotiations. Programming providers like DirecTV pay individual networks for programming, a cost that's passed along to subscribers.
However, Davis said Saturday that Versus was asking the same price it was already being paid, and that the dispute was over the tier in which the network would be offered in DirecTV's lineup.
“They insulted our programming,” Davis said. “They called our programming nothing more than paid programming and infomercials. … They were insulting the fans of IndyCar racing.”
Versus also offers the NHL hockey and a select number of college football games, as well as niche sports like rodeo and cage fighting.