Thursday, November 22, 2007

Inclement Weather for the Weather Channel

When we first got cable TV, The Weather Channel (TWC) was a huge hit in our household. Wow, imagine getting a local news forecast and radar image every 8 minutes! It was like being able to see into the future, without having to wait for the local evening news. There was little to no competition from other TV stations. Whenever there was a big weather story, one turned to TWC to get up to the minute information. And for weather junkies like me, it was great.

Then, the Internet happened, offering on-line weather information, including radar. Anyone with a computer and Internet access could get local weather information with a few mouse clicks. Was The Weather Channel doomed?

For me, it was doomed, to a point. While I had computer access, I could get all the quick weather information I needed right away. And I didn’t have to wait through 8 minutes of talk about weather that may not affect me, and many commercials, to get to the “Local on the 8s.”

Possibly sensing trouble, TWC started to offer weather specific programs like “Storm Stories” in order to grab viewers. I did watch them on occasion, but the time that the shows aired often conflicted with other prime time television that I was more interested in watching. I did manage to catch some parts of the shows. But the stories seem to repeat often, and there were so many “recreations” that it got old. So again, TWC lost me as a regular viewer.

Since bad weather likely translates to more viewers, TWC seemed to ramp up its "in person” coverage of big weather events, always seeming to send Mike Seidel out to be windblown, snowed on, rained on, etc. Every now and then, probably when it was more “safe” and/or the weather story was bigger, they sent their star, Jim Cantore, to get in harms way. The next problem I saw for TWC is that EVERYBODY now wanted in to reporting big weather events, so the broadcast networks and cable news channels like CNN. Fox, and MSNBC got into the picture. There was a glut of weather coverage, and during hurricane season, it was sometimes too much.

While TWC is available in HD, it’s not available in HD yet in my area. I find watching TWC in “regular format” TV a little boring, and even too hard on the eyes. The Abrams and Bettes show that airs at 8:00 PM ET weeknights looks like a glare of red and orange, more like a set geared toward heat and fire, and not weather.

It may be time for The Weather Channel to reinvent itself. Competition from other national channels like NBC Weather Plus is out there, and the Internet continues to have a huge influence on weather followers. Local TV channels frequently offer their own weather sections offering forecasts and live radar. If TWC wants to be more than the channel people go to during commercials on other shows, they need to get creative with their weather delivery and content. There are many weather junkies like me out there, and they are ready for something new.

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