DirecTV Excludes Current Sprout Viewers From Tier Move

MVPD, programmer continue to negotiate new contract
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It was a case of a grandfather taking care of the kids over the weekend.

DirecTV has agreed to grandfather current subs--Sprout puts the figure at about 9 million--from a move of Sprout to a tier that requires additional payment. Sprout called that grandfathering an "encouraging" move as it continues to negotiate a new carriage deal with the satellite operator.

DirecTV is going ahead with an announced move of the kids channel on Feb. 9, which had drawn the protest of Sprout viewers, according to a source at the programmer, including some 16,000 responses, a combination of calls and postings on the Facebook pages of both DirecTV and Sprout and .

"We were able to find a solution that enables customers who have Sprout to keep it in their programming package after February 9th," said a DirecTV spokesperson Saturday (Jan. 28) "New customers coming onto the platform will need to subscribe to the Ultimate Package to get Sprout after that date. He said it was a case of providing more choice while "managing rising programming costs on behalf of all of our customers."

MVPDs face a balancing act of increasing programming costs on the one hand and pressure from Washington to keep rates down.

Sprout responded on its Facebook page: "Thank you so much for all of your support. We've been in active discussions with DIRECTV since they announced their plans to move Sprout to a new package. We're optimistic about the progress of negotiations and encouraged by the statement that DIRECTV issued to their customers.

Last week had played host to a battle of the crawls, with DirecTV informing customers of the planned move and Sprout countering with its own crawl that that channel was in jeopardy. Sprout has been without a contract with DirecTV for 14 months, according to Sprout, with the issue always about placement rather than money, according to a Source there, who said the increase was the standard bump in effect for several years.

The source said that after Sprout's crawl and ensuing pushback, DirecTV asked it to take down the crawl, which it did. The source was quick to say that DirecTV has been a good partner and carried the channel since its inception. "It was never our intention to remove Sprout from our service," said the DirecTV spokesman.

Sprout is $40% owned by NBCU, 30% by HIT Entertainment, and 15% apiece by Sesame Workshop and PBS.

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