My Thoughts on The Weather Channel/Verizon FiOS TV Dispute and Meteorology in General

The Weather Channel dropped by yet another television provider? That’s right. Within the past 2 years The Weather Channel (TWC) has been dropped by DirecTV and now Verizon FiOS. And once again, another company will try to take this opportunity to make a name for itself. The AccuWeather channel will try its luck under the Verizon FiOS cable provider just as Weather Nation did under DirecTV in 2013. Weather Nation’s inexperience did not work out and eventually DirecTV and TWC came to an agreement in April of 2014. TWC was back on the air.

Why is this not a surprise?

1.  Ever since computers and the smart phone, television has been put on the back burner of media.

  • Apps and mobile web have become some of the primary sources of weather information
  • Add Twitter and Facebook to that and it includes even more sources of information.

2.  Comcast owns NBC who owns The Weather Channel

  • Verizon and Comcast are competitors
  • NBC bought out The Weather Channel in 2008
  • Comcast bought most of NBC Universal in 2011 and then all of NBC Universal in 2013

3.  24 Hour news stations (or close to 24 hour news) on 1 subject have not fared well

  • TWC has tried to incorporate regular news, shopping and travel ideas, etc. into their programming. There’s one problem. You already have CNN, HLN, MSNBC, etc. to take care of that
  • The perfect example is SportsCenter on ESPN. 10-20 years ago, you would have almost 100% highlights. Now they involve stories about Lebron James biking to home games or Peyton Manning’s worth to the Broncos 6 months before the NFL season. It is easier to look a score up on your phone today.

What does this mean for meteorologists in general?

Although the impact on meteorologists as a whole is small, it does represent where the field of meteorology is going. No longer are the faces of Marshall Seese and Heather Tesch the faces of weather. The faces of weather seem to be apps, mobile websites, and Twitter/Facebook anymore (with the exception of Jim Cantore and his thundersnow love). It is definitely a reality check for those in TV meteorology and the field of meteorology in general.

I gave a talk to students in 2013 at the American Meteorological Society in Austin, Texas about being a young professional in the field. It scared me to see hundreds of faces looking up at me for advice when I knew that the field of meteorology was shrinking. Energy companies have been laying off some of their meteorologists because it is cheaper to go through a company that sells similar products for thousands (if not tens of thousands) of dollars less. TV meteorologists are asked to be regular news reporters as well because it is cheaper for companies. The government has cut the budget so far down that the National Weather Service has been understaffed for quite some time now. When it comes down to it, technology is helping, but hurting, the meteorology field.

Is the meteorology field dying? No, but it is shrinking. This is a perfect sign of that weather models have become much better levels of guidance and technology improved to incredible levels. I go back to my freshman year of college to where paper maps were put on a clipboard to my senior year where the maps were all digital on an array of monitors on the wall. This is the direction that the field is going, and it is not going to slow down anytime soon. The best thing to do is to accept that and try to keep up with it. Marketing a weather product is not easy. I have said, “Selling a weather product is like selling a piece of paper for hundreds or thousands of dollars to a client who does not want to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars.” It is very difficult and in this case, Verizon does not find the product essential enough to keep TWC on their cable lineup.

Conclusion

 

There is not a need for The Weather Channel as much as there was even 10 years ago. What will subscribers of Verizon FiOS do? Look at their TWC app on their phone…or use WeatherBug… or AccuWeather…or Wunderground, etc. There are so many sources to get information that a 24 hour TV meteorology channel is basically obsolete. This is a primary example of how the weather field is changing and growing smaller while becoming saturated. We live in an age where people want their weather information now. Not after potential travel destinations…not after “Fat Guys in the Woods”…but right now. If they will not get that from your company, then they will find it somewhere else. The best thing to do is continue to grow with the field, and if that means the eventual shutdown of The Weather Channel on television, then so be it.