The Weather Channel
The weather forecast does more than just inform viewers if they should bring an umbrella or a sweater before heading outside. It is a shared experience that affects everyone around the globe, and certain resources have a trusted following from the accuracy and dependability of these reports. From this, the connection between the viewer and meteorologist create a valuable relationship worth exploring.
With staying current on social media and technology, providing informative and entertaining programming and giving viewers a chance to participate in the discussion, The Weather Channel has become a leader across cable, online and mobile application platforms.
In 2010, TWC reached the 100-million-household milestone which made it one of the most widely distributed cable networks in the U.S. This past June, the company surpassed 50 million app downloads on all smart phones and tablets.
Executive Vice President and General Manager of Networks and Content, Bob Walker, says the main content strategy of TWC is grounded on being the premiere source for helping consumers understand the weather and how it will impact them by providing live content. But he notes that program development for the network is currently evolving.
“Our consumers have told us they are looking for more engaging programming during primetime. Our team is 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,” he said. “So we view content investments, both in people and in content development, as something that needs to have a life on all of our platforms about interesting people outside in the weather.”
New summer hires in the programming department such as Senior Vice President of Content and Development, Michael Dingley, and Vice President of Original Content and Development, Mary Ellen Iwata, have hinted at a surge of new programming on the rise at the network.
“At our core, we are about the weather. But with the weather, there’s a lot of opportunity,” Walker said. “Weather affects everything from what we wear and where we travel to how we chose to live life outside. As we embrace new content options, we will always have the best live coverage of not just what the weather is but why the weather is happening and how it impacts our consumers. Our original content will focus on interesting people in the weather pursuing their passions. We will also continue to have live weather updates every half hour in all original content blocks.”
Walker is open to new programming ideas from producers around the globe and evaluates the concepts relative to what fits TWC brand. He realizes that consumers’ expectations evolve with new technologies and wants to make sure TWC brand evolves naturally as well.
One of the ways that TWC has advanced with technology is with collaborating with social media giant, Twitter. The Weather Channel Social was launched this summer to incorporate real-time local, weather-related tweets from everyday people into the local forecasts to appear alongside TWC broadcasts, Web and mobile platforms.
Also, for cities with a population of 100,000 or more, TWC created 220 custom local Twitter feeds that viewers can follow through the designated city Twitter handle. According to Twitter, on an average day U.S. users send approximately 200 weather-related Tweets per minute. With a significant weather event such as a hurricane, more than two million tweets are generated in a day.
When covering live large scale weather events, TWC strives for the most comprehensive coverage. Tom Lea, Director of News and Weather Coverage, oversees the news desk and editorial content for all live programming at TWC, says that the meteorology team, content team, crews in the field and project managers all work together to determine what information consumers need in real time.
“During Hurricane Irene coverage, we built a series of Irene coverage videos launched on weather.com and used real-time metrics to inform how we presented the videos on-air. The tested timeline package helped us identify the stories people cared most about, so we were able to swap up TV coverage based on what was working on the Web,” Lea said.
Not only do TWC viewers help shape the coverage, but users can also actively report and share weather photos and videos through iWitness Weather which features a new streamlined upload process for user-generated content on weather.com. Uploading content can also go through the iPhone app as well. TWC additionally has apps on every major mobile platform including iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Palm, Windows Phone and Symbian, as well as on tablets such as the iPad and Android devices.
The apps include content and features consumers have come to expect such as weather maps, radar maps, detailed weather conditions and forecasts and severe weather alerts. It also offers – where available – the ability to give a localized forecast to where you are depending on pinpointed locations or by searching by city, ZIP code, street address or landmark.
“We always strive to increase engagement and two-way conversation with our consumers, and we plan for digital and international expansion as well as evolution in programming content,” Lea said. “Of course, with the year we’ve had with so many occurrences of severe weather across the country, we remain prepared, knowing that we’re working with the best weather forecasters in the business.”
TWC employs more than 200 meteorologists and of those, about 30 of them are also on-camera personalities.
“At work, I use responses on-air, pictures that viewers post to my pages, answers to questions about stories and the weather, etc.,” Abrams said. “I end up feeling more connected to the viewer through social media and learn what they need, like and dislike.”
Abrams also likes to share content beyond weather. When she is not in the host chair on TWC morning shows, Wake Up with Al and Your Weather Today, she actively follows college football. “There are many conversations, especially on Saturday, talking about the games. I share parts of my life outside of work and try to inspire people or lift people’s spirits with random thoughts about how to make life happier,” she said. “If I can help one person have a better day or outlook on life, then I’m happy!”
Having a positive meteorologist that a viewer can trust is important for covering weather and beyond. “We respect our viewers and are always aware of the trusted relationship The Weather Channel brand has with the consumer,” Walker said. “The Weather Channel remains committed to providing the most comprehensive live coverage of severe weather with a goal of keeping people safe.”
Making the Pitch
Walker says that the network is open to hearing pitches from anyone. “If it’s for an editorial segment during our live programming, pitches should go through the news desk.”
Director of news and weather coverage, Tom Lea, can be emailed. “We have an active audience and we’re interested in hearing about things that would appeal to folks with an active lifestyle,” he said. “Keep in mind that we have a national audience so unless your event or product has broad appeal, it might not get
Tom Lea, director of news and weather coverage
Bob Walker, executive vice president and general manager of networks and content
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