Our Daily Dread: Another smarmy battle over sports TV rights, with the cable nincompoops trying to bully the dish dumbalecks as well as the tennis buffs

The scene is from “Office Space,” when Peter Gibbons is brought in to talk to some consultants who are interviewing employees about their experiences with the company.

Ummmmmmm, yeah…

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The Versus channel, which we still mistake as the Outdoors Channel, has gone missing from the DirecTV lineup, starting late last night.

But I wouldn’t say we were missing it.

When you got to Channel 603 on the DirecTV grid, the screen graphic says:

Versus is no longer available on this channel.
Comcast, which owns Versus, has forced us to take down the channel because we will not submit to their unfair and outrageous demands.
For more information, go to www.directv.com/versus.

“Outrageous”? That’s pretty pointed.

At that link, DirecTV — which, by the way, provides Versus with 24 million subscribers that otherwise might not even care — continues to explain:

“Comcast, the largest cable company in the U.S., owns Versus. They regularly try to charge us amounts well in excess of what is fair and reasonable to carry the programming they own. Their reason is obvious: they want to stifle competition from DIRECTV. Comcast’s unfair terms undermines DIRECTV’s ability to offer our customers the best possible value. If we simply accept these terms, we would have to absorb the unreasonable costs Comcast wants to charge us, and in turn we will be forced to increase the rates our customers pay. We do not want this to happen. In fact, Comcast has forced us to remove Versus because we would not accept the terms they demanded.
We are currently in contract negotiations and will continue to work with Comcast until the matter is resolved. Rest assured that we are making every effort to ensure that you continue to be satisfied with your service.”

How does that NHL deal with Versus look now?

On the Versus website, there’s no explanation about what’s going on. Like we need one.

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In a subsequent Q-and-A, DirecTV also has figured out what you’re going to ask, with a ready-made answer:

Should I switch to DISH or cable?

No. There’s no need to consider switching providers. DIRECTV has the best variety of exclusive and premium content available anywhere and we have similar programming on other channels. If you are concerned about NHL, we still have time to negotiate with Comcast before the start of the NHL season. For PBR fans, we offered to carry PBR programming, but PBR events are exclusive to Versus and cannot be made available to DIRECTV.

Is this all just so DIRECTV can save money?

Not at all, this is about DIRECTV getting treated fairly and not wanting to pass on high programming fees to our customers.

Bottom line for us: You haven’t taken away anything that’s going to change our lives much one way or another. If this drags onto into the Pac-10 football season, we could miss a game or two. We aren’t going to miss any of the NHL contests that are all teams we don’t really care about until the playoffs start. There are a couple shows we regularily TiVo but will consider them to be on hiatus.

Other than that, I wouldn’t say we were really missing anything…. Except the 10 minutes we just took to explain all this.

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Meanwhile, over at Cablevision (he wrote in a fist-shaking manner):

Cablevision isn’t carrying the Tennis Channel at a time when the network is steaming hot property for the U.S. Open coverage in New York.

The Tennis Channel’s statement:

Cablevision has taken a step that raises serious problems for all cable programmers. We are sorting out these issues and will decide what steps to take when we are ready to do so. They are too important to the future of cable programming to be governed by the immediacy of the US Open, as much as we would like to help people see it. Cablevision’s decision to wait until just before the US Open began to demand carriage under the NCTC agreement makes it responsible for this situation; it could have given us notice of its intention to do so well before now, so that the questions could have been addressed and resolved in advance.

What’s wrong with the visionaries at Cablevision?

We now resume our regular-scheduled cable channels already in progress. Wake us up with the greedy bastards are done urinating on each other. And thank goodness Cablevision isn’t in line to run national health care.

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