Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Ongoing Destruction of The Weather Channel

This is not the first time I’ve mentioned this topic.  I predicted back when NBC bought the Weather Channel they’d ruin it, and as far as I’m concerned, the corporate suits are doing a pretty good job of it.

Did anybody ask the geeks like me, who spend far too much time on the Weather Channel, if we wanted Al Roker on in the morning, to ass it up and make weather puns?  Far as I know, they didn’t ask.  They just put him on with no adult supervision and let him be a buffoon.

Here’s the thing about niche (and, for all you TV dweebs, that’s pronounced “nitch”, not “neesch”) programming.  By definition, it’s designed to appeal to a particular segment of the mass audience.  In this case, I’m guessing, when they first put The Weather Channel on cable years ago, the idea was to capture all the weather geeks out there in TV-land and give them weather, weather, weather.

I admit to my weather geekiness and I embrace it.  For years, TWC faithfully fed my need to know where low pressure systems, high pressure systems, and fronts of all sorts were, and what they were doing.  I’d get up to go to work at 2:30 AM and flip on TWC, and there was a meteorologist, live, giving me my first fix of weather info for the day.

Now that I don’t get up at half past two to go to work, I’m liable to turn on TWC at the spur of the moment just to see what’s going on.  More often than not these days, when I indulge the whim, I see something like “When Weather Struck Without Warning”, “Storm Stories”, “Peter Lik Photographs Great Clouds”, or “Famous Weather Systems of The Civil War”.  Canned programming, instead of a live meteorologist.

To me, the most annoying part of how NBC is destroying TWC, is in their weekday morning offerings.  Unless I tune in during the first 8 minutes of the hour, and see the lady who thinks she’s some kind of rock star (Stephanie Abrams – the first person TWC put on to be a celebrity, rather than a purveyor of weather information), I’m not going to get much weather.  I’m more likely to see something like “The Business Barometer”, a bunch of useless (to me) information about the stock market and such, aggregated by CNBC.  Or a longish vignette from the National Geographic channel.

The suits at NBC have taken what was an excellent product that perfectly served a niche market, and have tried to make it all things to all people.  News flash to 30 Rock: I want WEATHER from The Weather Channel, not sports, not stock market news, not sewing tips.  And certainly not FAMOUS TELEVISION PERSONALITY AL ROKER assing it up.  WEATHER.  I want WEATHER.

I’m sure the theory behind this “all things to all people” crap is that if they can convince the typical TWC viewer that they don’t need to go anywhere else on the dial to get everything they need in the morning, time-spent-viewing will increase, and drive advertising rates higher.  This is the kind of tortured thinking that passes for programming expertise in broadcasting today.  Instead of finding out what the audience wants and giving it to them in spades, it’s the other way around: give them a whole bunch of stuff and hope they’ll keep watching.

One thing TWC still does better than any other media outlet is cover severe weather live.  They’re GREAT at it; you can tell all those geeks like Jim Cantore and Mike Seidell are really lovin’ what they do; and those in-house experts like Dr. Greg Forbes they call on when things are really flyin’ around add just the right touch of hi-tech weather geekiness to make it all so…..well, so SCIENTIFIC!!!!  Whether it’s a tornado, cyclone, blizzard, windstorm, hail storm, or a huge outbreak of severe weather, TWC is at its best and nobody comes close to being as good as they are at it.

But the rest of the time, TWC is slipping into the mediocrity of most live TV, being pushed slowly into the grave by executives who have no passion for content (weather!) and think only in short-term business considerations.


  1. Agreed on all I'm an avowed weather geek, too, my friend. Mostly that they cover severe better than anyone.

    HOWEVER...those of us in the destination development business live in fear of the "Cantore effect"...which is the breathless reporting of utter devastation with very little interest in returning a few weeks/months later to cover the recovery of a region. The lasting image of their (often sensational) coverage sadly lingers much longer than it should in the minds of potential visitors.

    It's a powerful medium...but it also has the power to do harm.

  2. Preach it, brother.

    I once worked at a radio station where the jocks were told not to dwell on severe weather--that when it got bad, anybody who cared would tune over to TWC. That's a reputation radio stations used to want--to be the one people tune to when the weather goes sideways--and TWC had it, but they've pretty much given it away unless there's a hurricane or a blizzard (or it starts raining in Atlanta).

  3. I'm in the McAllen, TX area and my question is, do the people that come in and do the blue weather charts for the "on the 8s" weather; are they drunk? There are so many typing errors, at times one can't make it out. elwin Feb 27, 2012

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