Sports channel Versus, which is owned by Comcast, faded to black yesterday for DirecTV customers after it was unable to forge a carriage agreement with the satellite provider.

DirecTV had set an Aug. 31 deadline for a new agreement, but dropped Versus from its lineup at midnight on Sept. 1, according to published reports.

DirecTV is placing the blame firmly on Comcast and posted the following on its Web site: “We want you to know we're doing everything we can to keep your favorite sports programming on DirecTV, but we've simply reached an impasse with Comcast over its Versus channel.

“In sports, we all expect fair play and a level playing field – a competitor that plays by the rules. Evidently that's not the rule book Comcast plays by. Its unreasonable demands are the economic equivalent of juicing to gain an advantage over its competitors. And our fear is that their egregiously greedy behavior may ultimately kill coverage of your favorite sports on television.

“The deal that just expired was well above market value and beyond what other significant distributors were paying. To add insult to injury, Comcast demanded we carry Versus at a 20 percent premium in a new deal, thereby forcing us to take down the channel.”

For its part, Versus has audio running on its Web site that says “DirecTV has made a bad call” by denying sports fans of NHL, college football and IndyCar coverage with its decision to drop Versus. The Versus Web site offers a number for sports fans to call, as well as an e-mail form to fill out, that requests DirecTV carry its programming.

The Web site also posted the following: “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. We have simply asked DirecTV to carry Versus at a comparable level of distribution as it does today, at the same market price that other operators are paying. We hope DirecTV will make the right decision for its customers and put Versus back on the air.”

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