Versus-DirecTV dispute will affect MWC viewers

Published September 2, 2009 5:39 pm
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Unless an agreement is reached in the near future, BYU and Utah football fans who are DirecTV subscribers will not be able to watch their teams play several games on the Versus television network this fall.

TCU, Wyoming, Air Force and San Diego State fans are out of luck as well.

The sports channel Versus has broadcast rights to televise the Sept. 19 Florida State-BYU game, the Oct. 24 TCU-BYU game, the Oct. 24 Air Force-Utah game and the Nov. 21 San Diego State-Utah game. It also has the Wyoming-Texas game on Sept. 12 and a few others involving Mountain West Conference teams.

Versus, which is owned by cable giant Comcast Corp., was dropped by satellite broadcaster DirecTV on Tuesday after the two sides failed to strike a deal to keep the channel as part of DirecTV's lineup.

A notice on the DirecTV channel previously occupied by Versus says, "Comcast, which owns Versus, has forced us to take down the channel because we will not submit to their unfair and outrageous demands."

Once known as the Outdoor Life Network (OLN), Versus is known now for its Tour de France and National Hockey League coverage. It also has rights to selected MWC, Big 12 and Pac-10 football games.

In a message to subscribers on its Web site, DirecTV says Versus is trying to gouge it by asking for a "more than 20 percent rate hike." According to the Los Angeles Times , Versus wants an increase of between 21 and 26 cents per subscriber per month.

Versus president Jamie Davis told the Times that DirecTV is "clouding the facts" and that the satellite giant wanted to move Versus to a higher-priced programming package that would allow it to reach only 6.3 million DirecTV subscribers.

The contract expired at midnight Sept. 1.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Versus said it was disappointed an agreement could not be reached.

"Since our last deal with DirecTV, Versus has added many marquee properties and has become one of the fastest-growing sports cable networks in the country. Versus offered DirecTV a fair and reasonable offer to carry the network at the market price. We hope DirecTV will make the right decision for their customers and put Versus back on the air," the statement read.

Can Cougs compete?

TCU coach Gary Patterson knows what BYU will face this week when it meets Oklahoma in Cowboys Stadium near Dallas. The Horned Frogs beat Oklahoma 17-10 in 2005 and fell 35-10 to OU last year.

Patterson said the game could be closer than expected.

"I think it will be a better ballgame than some people in this part of the country think it is, because I know BYU. I know the talent that they have, and the way that they play," he said. "When BYU is physical, and with the way they throw the football and the way they play defense, they are hard to beat."

One of the reasons Patterson is giving BYU a chance is because it has had an entire offseason to prepare.

"One thing about playing them the first game of the season -- you are able to prepare for them a lot more than just one week," he said. "So I expect BYU to be well-prepared."

New Wyoming coach Dave Christensen isn't giving BYU much of a chance, however. Having lost 62-21 to Oklahoma last year when he was Missouri's offensive coordinator, Christensen said the Sooners had the "biggest, fastest players I've ever seen in my life."

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Tribune Power Rankings

1. TCU (0-0)

Season starts next week at ACC's Virginia

2. Utah (0-0)

Three-touchdown favorites against Utah State

3. BYU (0-0)

All eyes on the Cougars Saturday night in Dallas

4. Air Force (0-0)

Falcons aren't testing themselves in their opener

5. UNLV (0-0)

Next week, Rebels face the Pac-10's Oregon State

6. Colorado State (0-0)

Signed a deal to play Colorado every year for 10 years

7. New Mexico (0-0)

Two Big 12 teams on the Lobos' nonconference schedule

8. San Diego State (0-0)

Brady Hoke era begins Saturday at the Rose Bowl vs. UCLA

9. Wyoming (0-0)

Don't be surprised if Weber State gives Pokes all they can handle

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