Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Weather Channel Has Lost Its Focus

The Weather Channel has been doomed since NBC bought into it several years ago and changed it from a place where you could get instant, up-to-date weather forecasts around the clock, 24-7-365, to just another cable channel filled with horrid reality shows and has-been TV personalities.


I’ve made this observation before and I’ll make it again: the Weather Channel has lost its focus.


If you tuned in to get the forecast yesterday, like I did, you couldn’t escape seeing the message delivered by Jim Cantore (a true weather geek and formidable weather personality, unlike Al Roker, an old-school TV personality) intoning in dire terms that DirecTV is, in essence, going to be responsible for countless deaths because – the way Jim spun it – DirecTV refuses to carry the Weather Channel.


After all, these meteorologists at the Weather Channel are serious scientists, and they’re in the business of saving lives.  That is, unless they happen to be running one of those horrid reality shows they’ve loaded onto the daily schedule.


The deal between the Weather Channel and DirecTV expired at one minute past midnight Tuesday, and the Weather Channel was ready with the Jim Cantore announcement, which ran seemingly every 8 minutes.  The business end of the Weather Channel was busy sending out news escapes calling the move by DirecTV “reckless”, and saying the move “will have an impact on….national safety and the preparedness fabric of our country”.


Serious stuff, this weather business.  Except, of course, like yesterday morning, when my wife and I tuned in the Weather Channel, and they were doing a LONG segment on how to cook a nutritious breakfast. (I’m not kidding.)
See what I mean about loss of focus?


Here’s the thing: this is not just an argument about how much money The Weather Channel wants from DirecTV to carry their programming, like the recent local spat between WISC-TV Channel 3 and Charter Cable about what the fee would be set at.  Or the one between Channel 3 and DishNet a few months before that.  That’s just business, and contract renewals can involve heavy-duty give-and-take; and, often, threats.


Apparently, more and more weather geeks – like me – have made their feelings clear about the loss of focus at the Weather Channel.  When the contract between the Weather Channel and DirecTV came to an end, DirecTV kicked the Weather Channel to the curb and put its own meteorological service, a new thing called Weather Nation, in place of the Weather Channel.  One DirecTV executive (Dan York, whose title is “Chief Content Officer”) said “Most consumers don’t want to watch a weather information channel with a forecast of a 40% chance of reality TV”.


Yup.  That’s me, all right.  You can keep “Weather In Space”, “Prospectors”, “Coast Guard Alaska”, “Breaking Ice”, “Freaks of Nature”, “Highway Through Hell” and all those other  Weather Channel reality shows….and you can put “Wake Up With Al” on that list. Al Roker is the LAST person I want to wake up with.
All this extraneous stuff they do would be like ESPN suddenly deciding to do shows about sewing or first-time home buyers.


DirecTV went on to say that they’ve heard loud and clear from their customers that they do NOT want to see reality shows when they tune in for the weather, and – Lord of mercy – they think the Weather Channel’s policy of giving names to storms is STOOPID!!!!!!

There is hope for humanity.
I’ve discovered I’m far from alone in despising the gimmicking-up of weather.  Whatever finally happens….whether the folks at DirecTV decide to get out of the weather business and come to terms with the Weather Channel again; or whether the Weather Channel wakes up with Al one morning and decides to resist the crap foisted on it by the NBC-Universal people and get back to the business of doing live forecasts 24-7-365, one thing is certain: the people – at least, some of them – subscribers to DirecTV - have been given an alternative, and as far as I’m concerned that’s a good thing.


I’ll be watching eagerly to see how this plays out.


  1. Al Roker is the LAST person I want to wake up with.

    No matter that we are poles apart politically, Tim, I NEVER thought otherwise of you.

  2. This post is the most exactly correct thing on the Internet at the moment. We haven't watched the Weather Channel, even for a minute, in at least a year, and this is directly due to the fact that most of the time, especially in prime time, they aren't doing the weather. There was a time when they really were the life-saving public utility they are insisting they are today--so much so in the late 80s/early 90s that one excuse radio execs used for cutting the nuts off local weather programming was "everybody tunes to the Weather Channel for that stuff now." No more.

    Nobody needs a solid competitor as much as they do, although I don't know if the DirecTV alternative is it. It's hard to beat the giant. Just ask Fox Sports 1.

    1. Thank you for the kind words, JB. I'm not sure if they need competition as much as they need someone at the helm with an understanding of who they serve, and what those people want. Pretty simple, from the moms who just want to know if they need to send the kids to school with rain gear to the guy looking for a snow-ski forecast for Vail next weekend. None of them need - or want - cooking segments or the adventures of the Coast Guard.

  3. In Madison, WMTV also converted this month to WeatherNation on Channel 15's subcarrier channel 15.2 and Charter 247. The screen is significantly less busy. There is no need now for The Weather Channel and it's realty show programming.

    1. The Weather Channel thinks it's worth a lot more than it really is, so not only is it programming itself out of its own market, it's pricing itself out of the market.