Weather Services Battle
To compete with cable's Weather Channel and to maximize their own digital capabilities and weather operations, an increasing amount of local broadcasters are starting 24/7 digital weather channels. So far, NBC's new WeatherPlus, a joint effort between the network and its affiliates, is the biggest player: 20 stations are on board and another 17 planning to launch soon.
Now, weather-forecasting service AccuWeather wants in on the action. AccuWeather is out pitching its new local AccuWeather Channel to stations, promising a customizable, low-cost service. About 50 stations nationwide currently use AccuWeather's forecasting tools; they'll get first crack at the new service. Partner stations would get programming and equipment free for the first year. After that, the annual cost estimated at less than $50,000. Ad-sales revenue will be equally divided. No new stations have yet signed on for the local service.
The company currently partners with cable and local broadcasters on a combined 20 stations, including WFMZ Allentown and KJTV Lubbock, Tex., which offer AccuWeather-branded services on their secondary digital channels and local cable. WJHG Panama City, Fla., has a cable-only channel. Tech-savvy WRAL Raleigh, N.C., uses the company's forecasting to power its own WRAL WeatherCenter Channel.
With the next generation of channels, AccuWeather says it can tailor service to fit specific needs.
A station can use its own forecasters (or AccuWeather's) and take as much content—a flexible mix of local and national forecasts—as desired. A station can use its own audio and video, and it is free to add sports and news.
That flexibility will set AccuWeather apart from WeatherPlus' wheel of national and local forecasting, says R. Lee Rainey, AccuWeather's VP of marketing. “The stations can structure the presentation,” he says.
At KJTV, the AccuWeather channel hones on Lubbock. “Everything has to have a local perspective,” says President/GM Brad Moran. Regional and national radar pictures are visually centered on Lubbock.
The field, however, is getting crowded. Along with WeatherPlus and AccuWeather, the Weather Channel has created Weatherscan, a local, graphics-heavy cable service that reaches about 8 million subscribers in 90 markets.
In the Philadelphia market, there is WeatherPlus on NBC O&O WCAU, WFMZ's AccuWeather and a Weatherscan channel. WFMZ, an independent station, was first in the market in 2001 to launch the digital-broadcast service. Local advertisers can sponsor segments and even air audio from radio spots while maps are onscreen. AccuWeather supplies the information.
At NAB next month, Local AccuWeather will demonstrate with an unnamed New York City station.
The Viacom Station Group is shuffling some local executives. Michael Colleran, most recently president/GM for Viacom's South Florida triopoly WFOR, WBFS and WTVX, is heading north to run the company's Philadelphia duopoly: KYW and WPSG. He was KYW's general sales manager from 1993 to 1997.
That spot opened after Peter Dunn was named president and CEO of Viacom Television Stations Spot Sales.
Brien Kennedy, station manager for WTVX West Palm Beach, Fla., has been tapped as the new president/GM for all Viacom's Florida stations, including two low-power outlets in West Palm Beach that Viacom will take over April 4.
Angie Kucharski has been named VP/station manager of Boston's Viacom duopoly, CBS station WBZ and UPN station WSBK.
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