NBC Universal Shutting Down Weather Plus
Three months after acquiring stake in The Weather Channel, NBC Universal pulls plug on its 24-hour local weather service
By Marisa Guthrie and Michael Malone -- Broadcasting & Cable, 10/7/2008 11:21:00 AM
NBC Universal is pulling the plug on Weather Plus, the 4-year old digital venture between NBC and local affiliates that provided 24-hour local weather service on digital tiers.
NBC and the NBC Television Affiliates Association Board unanimously approved the decision to dissolve the service, according to an announcement. NBC News chief Steve Capus informed the staff Tuesday that operations would be shut down. Ten NBC O&Os and 80 affiliates currently use Weather Plus.
"NBC Universal's purchase of The Weather Channel, coupled with the ongoing financial and distribution challenges facing Weather Plus, made the venture no longer feasible," the company said in a statement. "As was the world's first all-digital broadcast network, Weather Plus will no doubt pave the way for the future of digital broadcasting, and we are proud of all we accomplished with this unique property. On the air and behind the scenes, the staff has shown tremendous dedication and professionalism, and we would like to thank them for all their efforts."
Weather Plus fell under the news division’s responsibility last year when Jay Ireland, former head of the NBC stations group, returned to parent company General Electric.
Weather Plus was intended to exploit new revenue streams for NBC and its affiliates, but the service was facing increasingly challenging economic realities. When NBC Universal acquired a minority stake in The Weather Channel in July, Weather Plus was rendered all but redundant.
Few at the station level were surprised to hear of NBC’s decision to pull the plug on Weather Plus.
“Weather Channel is such a strong brand—it’s the weather brand,” says WTHR Indianapolis VP/General Manager Jim Tellus, whose station offers its own Skytrak franchise instead of Weather Plus. “I would’ve guessed they’d put their energies into Weather Channel.”
But affiliates are increasingly curious as to how NBC will work Weather into the station mix. They say their rich archive of local weather content, coupled with the preeminent weather brand, would make a robust combination.
“The chance to localize the Weather Channel product, which is considered one of its shortcomings, seems like a natural fit,” says KSNW Wichita President/General Manager Al Buch, who is on the NBC affiliates board. “There’s significant opportunity to leverage the affiliate body to have a very potent weather resource.”
Other affiliates wonder what will become of their digital slot to be vacated by Weather Plus. Some suggest a mix of their local news and NBC’s news and entertainment content would fill the breach nicely. “Stations might be apprehensive about filling their own local news channel,” says WJAR Providence VP/General Manager Lisa Churchville, who learned of Weather Plus’ demise from a reporter. “A mix of MSNBC, CNBC, and maybe NBC entertainment programming could’ve made for an interesting outlet.”
I live in northern Florida and am very disappointed about the demise of Weather Plus. It was a great way to get local weather all day long, with local meteorologists and local 5-day forecasts. I can''''t get local forecasts from the Weather Channel because I don''''t have cable. I get the Weather Channel from Directv and that feed does not provide the detailed local forecast that the Weather Channel provides over cable. It''''s really annoying when companies decide to change things like this for economic reasons or some perceived idea that no one likes the status quo.
Harry Knecht - 10/12/2008 1:09:00 PM EDT
The demise of Weather Plus by NBC after acquiring the Weather Channel is déjà vu to the NBCâ€™s demise of the Financial News Network after acquiring it, so CNBC could exist without competition at least for a few years after.
LAWRENCE PREVITI - 10/8/2008 10:24:00 AM EDT
It'll be sad to see NBC Weather Plus go after 4 years. I'm hoping that NBCU may be thinking up a new digital all-news (and weather) channel for local affiliates that'll be losing the digital all-weather channel.
Eric - 10/7/2008 7:15:00 PM EDT
Weatherscan would not work in the vacated slot because the computers
behind WeatherScan (known as IntelliStars - the Weather Channel also
uses them) probably would be unable to handle the large DMAs out west
(large counties and lots of them, like Phoenix). Either the bandwidth will
flow back into HD or TWC will end up making a broadcast IntelliStar for
NBCWX+ had a pretty big penetration too. We're lucky because we were
wallowing in 24-hour weather channels (KPHO and KNXV operate their
own) - so much so that Cox pulled WeatherScan back in March!
Raymie Humbert - 10/7/2008 6:22:00 PM EDT
What about 24-hr. newser digi that was announced earlier this year? Is that still on line for rollout early next year... or is that project being shelved in light of the economy? Hope not, since there's clearly a market for an OTA all-newser. PBS should be doing a quality 24-hr. news channel, but for some reason doesn't seem to want to shake up the news marketplace by lending its quality brand to an all-news outlet.
Adam Smith - 10/7/2008 4:03:00 PM EDT
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