Riding the Storm at Weather Channel

Viewers flood to network during severe weather; exec talks about how to keep them

As Hurricane Irene flooded communities and the airwaves, The Weather Channel surged 771% over its average in total viewers during its 24-hour coverage. Bob Walker, executive VP/GM of networks and content for TWC, spoke with B&C’s Lindsay Rubino about how the network plans to keep that audience from washing away. An edited transcript follows.

How do you leverage large audiences during severe weather to drive tune-in during fair weather?

It all starts…with making sure that we are excellent at serving the consumer in times of bad weather. So when you have things like Irene…we want to make sure we do a really good job so that we can showcase what makes us different—the experts and the science behind why it’s happening, not just what is happening. It gives us a good platform to invite the consumer back so that even when the weather is not so active, we still have some engaging programming about people outside in the elements.

What are The Weather Channel’s goals in terms of content?

We want to transition from being just what the weather is to why the weather is what it is and the impact it’s having on your life and your day. And we have a unique suite of assets from which to have that interaction and relationship with the consumer.

Why is the network expanding its long-form content lineup?

We’re very fortunate to have big scale across several platforms….It allows us to present more entertaining and engaging programming at certain times, as long as we never forget our core mission, which is making sure we’re there for them in times of severe weather.

How do recent exec hires Michael Dingley and Mary Ellen Iwata fit into your content development strategy?

[They] are really focused on identifying content ideas that can be a television show, video on weather.com and can manifest itself in a mobile experience as well. So we really are viewing content investments— both in people and in content development—as something that needs to have a life on all of our platforms.

How has The Weather Channel Social affected your content?

Social is something that is just part of our digital DNA at this point in time. When you go to weather.com you can comment on any one of our news stories through the Facebook commenting tool so that it not only posts the comment on the story on our website, but to the Weather Channel Facebook page and it posts to your personal Facebook wall. The partnership with Twitter is a way for people to really look in on the weather conversation of what's taking place and most recently, this weekend those social tools allowed us to monitor what people were saying in the social space about all of the weather that was going up the East Coast all the way from North Carolina into New England and it allows us as an organization to focus in on certain areas where we see big trends happening, do some of the background work to verify the information and actually get news and information onto weather.com onto the network right away, that actually was original sourced through some of our social tools.