Versus Launches 'Worthless' Ads In Distribution Dispute With DirecTV

Ads, Running In Eight Newspapers, Riff Off DBS Operator's Remarks Demeaning Net's Programming

Mike Reynolds -- 9/4/2009 4:44:44 PM EDT

The disconnect between Versus and DirecTV grew louder Friday, with the programmer running ads in a number of newspapers for its displacement from the satellite operator's air earlier this week.
Versus said it bought ads in eight newspapers, with its message headlined by the word "Worthless," riffing off remarks made by the No. 1 DBS provider that demeaned its programming that were made after the network went dark on Sept. 1, following the expiration of their contract. The parties have not negotiated since then.

At that time, DirecTV called the Comcast-owned Versus "piggish" for pursuing a 20% price hike, while labeling the network as "basically a paid programming and infomercial channel with occasional sporting events of interest."
Versus president Jamie Davis, during subsequent interviews this week, expressed umbrage with the comments. "If the quote-unquote 'leader in sports' considers the Stanley Cup playoffs and Lance Armstrong's comeback as paid programming and infomercials, then I think the average fan knows they're not the real 'leader in sports.' That's an insult to all the fans of those sports."
The ads that ran in Los Angeles Times, Denver Post, Dallas Morning News, Austin American Statesman, Houston Chronicle and Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, as well as the University of Texas and University of Wyoming student newspapers, took things a bit further.
The ads, depict sports gear under a trash heap, with copy reading: "That's what DirecTV thinks of the sports you love." It also includes the logos of sports/leagues carried by Versus, while stating that the Sept. 12 college football game between No. 2 Texas and Wyoming was "directly scrapped."
Versus officials Friday afternoon indicated the ads would continue, with "longer schedules and different executions" targeting key events until things are resolved.
Versus officials contend talks broke down over positioning, with DirecTV looking to place the network on an undefined level of service that would remove it from 6 million homes. The channel had been on DirecTV's Total Choice Xtra package, reaching some 14 million subs out of its 75.5 million base.
DirecTV didn't immediately respond by press time on Friday afternoon.