In a move that's going to be an unpleasant surprise for some sports fans when they realize what's going on, DirecTV has booted the Versus cable network off its satellite dishes in a dispute over money. DirecTV says Versus wanted a 20 percent increase on the 18 cents per subscriber it collects from cable and satellite companies. That may not sound like a lot of money, but when indexed against Versus' ratings, it turns the little channelinto one of the most expensive sports networks in America. Versus, for its part, says DirecTV wanted to put it into a more expensive tier of channels that would have cost it access to millions of viewers. Bottom line: On Sept. 1, DirecTV pulled the plug.
Versus, which used to be called the Outdoor Life Network, airs an immense amount of junk programming, from informercials (as many as 10 hours a day at times) to trash sports like cage fighting. But it's also got the NHL, the Tour de France bike race, and college football games from the Pac-10, Big 12, Mountain West and Ivy League conferences. (In 2007, Versus was the only TV network to air No. 1 USC's loss to 43-point underdog Stanford, the greatest upset in the history of college football.) The tiff between DirecTV and Versus hasn't generated much publicity yet, but as we move into fall and fans tune in for college football or pro hockey only to discover it isn't there, expect some noise.