Weather Channel Tackles Criticism For Airing Too Much Fluff, With New Ads Attacking Competitors For Airing Too Much Fluff

from the windy-glass-houses dept

Last year, we noted how The Weather Channel’s tendency to air a higher volume of fluff and nonsense was harming the company’s leverage and negotiating power when demanding higher rates from cable operators. DirecTV, you’ll recall, responded to The Weather Channel’s demands by simply pulling the channel and replacing it with weather services that, well — actually reported the weather. Amusingly, many users found this to be an improvement over the channel’s usual approach to reporting the weather: funny pictures of buffalo, photos of “sexy beaches,” or programs like “Prospectors.”

Having not learned a valuable lesson, last month The Weather Channel made the same demands from Verizon, which, like DirecTV before it, simply responded by replacing the weather channel with AccuWeather and directing users to apps that actually forecast the weather. Initially, The Weather Channel tried to claim Verizon was toying with the public’s safety. It then launched a website aimed at generating outrage among viewers, urging them to contact Verizon and complain.

Except, given the growing disdain consumers have for a company that has increasingly stumbled away from its core mission, none of this appears to be working. As such, The Weather Channel has come up with a great new idea: mocking other weather organizations for focusing too much on fluff, and not enough on the weather. In a letter to employees, The Weather Channel CEO David Kenny calls Verizon “reckless” and urges employees to cancel all Verizon services. He then tears into AccuWeather for focusing on hippos during a recent tornado emergency in Oklahoma:

“We saw that last Wednesday night, when we featured live coverage from Oklahoma. Interestingly, Accuweather took a shot at the NWS for calling the tornado potential ?low? that day, yet the Accuweather network itself, as you can see in the image below, was not even covering weather during Oklahoma?s severe outbreak. Here?s their coverage on the left:

Yes, hippos swimming.”

Yes, that’s a channel that has been mercilessly mocked for years about its tendency to air fluff, attacking other channels for airing too much fluff. For good measure, The Weather Channel decided to up the ante and launch a new media and print campaign that also mocks AccuWeather for showing hippos when a tornado struck Oklahoma:

AccuWeather CEO Barry Meyers quickly responded to the ad campaign by pointing out that AccuWeather isn’t offered in Oklahoma. He also ponied up some advice about stones and glass houses:

“In 168 hours of week, the amount of programming they have devoted to real weather is really small,? Myers said. ?People need to judge what that means.” “People need to ask themselves what The Weather Channel is so afraid of,? Myers added. ?They?ve had a virtual monopoly for 30-some years. They almost lost with DirecTV , and they have lost with Verizon. Competition is good, and it offers people choice and strengthens products.”

The Weather Channel does slowly appear to be learning that you don’t have much negotiating leverage when nobody thinks your product is very good. Serious coverage has ramped up slightly and its website’s dumbest videos now at least have some tangential connection to actual weather forecasting. Still, it would be nice if The Weather Channel could learn this lesson without the heavy dose of head-spinning hypocrisy.

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Companies: accuweather, direct tv, verizon, weather channel

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Comments on “Weather Channel Tackles Criticism For Airing Too Much Fluff, With New Ads Attacking Competitors For Airing Too Much Fluff”

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30 Comments
Vidiot (profile) says:

Convinced of their own importance

TWC lost its way. With giant, lush sets (for faux meteorologists… really?), multiple custom-made reality series, and its own, homebrewed plan to dole out bizarre names to rainstorms and snowstorms, it clearly had misread its mandate.

Returning to the core mission… what a concept! Early CATV systems, to a one, featured an almost DOS-like black and white screen showing time, temp, wind speed and direction at the cable head end; and once the National Weather Service started a teletext-like data service, you could read a regional forecast, too. Unsophisticated as it was, it was nonetheless the most popular channel on the system at times.

In the last year or two, before Verizon made the switch to Accuweather, I found myself watching fifteen minutes of giant tow trucks, Alaskans, or (of course) giant Alaskan tow trucks just to check a forecast. Now, the Alaskan tow truck channel has gone away, there’s weather all the time (like a 46″ wall-mounted smartphone!), and life is simpler.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Convinced of their own importance

I’m gonna miss watching Jim Cantore get pounded by hurricanes, blizzards, floods, etc. for no particularly good reason. (“Why…why YES it’s a good idea to put our on-air personnel in harm’s way and possibly create problems for first responders…how will anyone know that there are 110 MPH winds unless we send him out there?”)

TWC is irrelevant and disposable. I get better realtime coverage by watching the blogs at Weather Underground (who contributors are quite often very weather-savvy).

mrpapercuts says:

I think the Weather Channel has actually learned something that you seem to have missed – it’s already too late for a Weather Channel to be valid, and the only hope the channel has, is to mimic the History channel and move into cheap programming (reality TV) and fluff pieces.

A Weather Channel in the world of apps and smart phones is redundant. They are re-branding, changing their image, because in fact, that’s the only way they can compete as a TV channel. Nobody is buying cable packages for a weather report.

Gumnos (profile) says:

Sorta amazed it's still a thing

First, I never figured I’d see such readily obvious comparisons between The Weather Channel and MTV. MTV used to actually show music around the clock, but is now mostly filler fluff with no music. The Weather Channel used to actually show weather around the clock, but is now mostly filler fluff with no weather.

Second, this is the same Weather Channel that, on multiple occasions, has given an up-to-the-minute forecast of 0% chance of precipitation for my rather small Zip code when I can see a deluge outside. No love lost for those weather witches.

Jason says:

When I was a kid I remember when we first got The Weather Channel; all weather, all the time! It seemed pretty cool, even the gray-on-blue full screen printout of the storm warnings. Now it’s basically dead to me… like the History Channel, Discovery, etc., they may occasionally have a few minutes of interesting material in the middle of endless hours of nonsense, through sheer luck, but it isn’t much. The only reason I still (very occasionally) visit the web site is a combination of habit and morbid curiosity, to see what the latest terrible site redesign has done to crowd out weather information in favor of advertising.

I’m all in favor of cable/satellite companies dropping them in favor of outlets that actually talk about the weather. But I do wish there were a few other alternatives… AccuWeather has left a bad taste in my mouth ever since they tried to take the NWS data out of public domain.

wereisjessicahyde (profile) says:

To be fair the “core mission” behind a 24 hour “Weather Channel” was never going to work. Really who gives a shit?

OK, if you’re planning a barbecue then checking the weather might be useful but the rest of the time who cares?

If it’s wet it’s wet. If it’s cold it’s cold. If it’s hot it’s hot. You still have to go about your day.

There is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes.

Jason says:

Re: Re:

I don’t necessarily dispute the premise that an idealized 24-hour weather channel might not work.

But it’s a pretty big country, and it has a lot of different weather. “Going about your day” in a blizzard, a hurricane, a tornado warning, or any other kind of severe weather isn’t always as simple as zipping up your jacket (or not). If you live in a place where looking out the window gives you all you need to know about the day’s weather, then congratulations. A lot of other people don’t.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Except it did work, for years. Losing consumers by wasting money on extra junk makes little sense as a business plan. Kind of like shooting yourself in both feet.

I don’t know if it was the personal vision of one person or a few, or years of incredibly bad market research (astonishing, I know) but when they’re flashing a few seconds of actual weather at me once an hour instead of giving me my local data and access to weather across the States and the rest of the globe that can be useful and important to anyone, they’ve failed. When before they only had to spend on the core information and had more eyeballs. But if they felt like they just weren’t doing as well as they once were on cable, then they should have dropped the model and concentrated on the net.

Jason says:

Re: Re: Re:

All true.

I think if the vision would have stayed focused on providing good, accurate, reliable weather information then they would still have a prominent place in the market, and probably rightfully so.

But once it starts becoming about how much ad revenue is to be had, instead of how best to serve your customers, that’s the beginning of the end.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

A 24 hour weather channel absolutely can work, and did for quite a while. The real problem is that such a channel will never be hugely profitable, and TWC clearly wanted to chase the big bucks. I think it’s an example of a larger illness in our society: the idea that if you aren’t making the most money you possibly can, then what you’re doing isn’t worthwhile.

“There is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes.”

Where can I find hurricane and tornado-proof clothing?

Anonymous Coward says:

The ROI of Fluff

Like most companies, I am guessing the TWC is in it for the money, so they are trying to maximize the cost of production compared to the eyeballs they get to justify ad revenue and cable contracts.

Is the ROI for the fluff really that much better than simple weather monitoring with periodic reporting? That’s what makes me scratch my head, especially considering the results so far.

Just Another Anonymous Troll says:

A reason why

The reason why they’re doing this is probably because you don’t need to actually watch TV to get the weather. Any idiot with a cruddy laptop and an Internet connection can look up temperatures, weather maps, etc. at his own pace whenever and where ever he feels like. They fill the channel with fluff because that’s better for TV. I’m not saying that their fluff-to-content ratio is acceptable (it should be turned down) but that there is a reason to air loads of fluff.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: A reason why

The reason why is obvious, although misguided. But the issue isn’t that TWC has become worthless because of the fluff, the issue is that TWC continues to believe that they provide a worthwhile service. In fact, they believe that they provide a critical service. Their delusion rose so high that they actually thought the threat of taking their ball and going home would be enough to get cable companies to pay more for them.

In other words, we’re just laughing at them now.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: A reason why

There is no compelling reason to tune into TWC. When I want the weather I see fluff, when a tornado is on the way I tune to the local news stations. When I’m walking out the door I look at my phone to see if I need a jacket or umbrella.

Their weather product is dead and their fluff is crap. Maybe they should focus on one thing and do it well instead of doing a horrible job at two things.

Anonymous Coward says:

The Weather Channel lost me when they started putting ads on. They were so proud they didn’t do commercials and then one day they did.

Today I rely on the internet and view radar on line. NWS provides all alerts needed. When I want to see the weather, that is what I want to see. I’m not interested in sideshows and happily have missed this further degradation of what was once at the beginning a fair service at best.

There is nothing they provide I am interested in that I can’t get on line. They have become irrelevant and I get along just fine without them.

The big joke is they think their service valuable enough to want to be paid for it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Being in the eye of the storm that day....

The sad part is that the Weather Channel was even ahead of local news as far as getting the tornado warnings out.

The real story is shit like “Siloam Springs Emergency people didn’t sound the tornado sirens for the tornado warning because he didn’t want to scare people”…

and

“The only tornado shelter for Fayetteville is all the way down in Greenland, and although that shelter is supposed to be opened as soon as a warning is sounded for the county, it took phone calls to the county sheriff (who told people to call back in 20 min…which was right as the storm was going to be hitting), and outrage on social media in order to get the shelter opened prior to the storm hitting”.

The Weather Channel was 15 minutes ahead of the local news stations, and I was only streaming from my phone.

Sorry. Just putting it out there how dumb this whole story is.

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Wayne Burke says:

INNABILITY to forecast WEATHER

Good Lord , Are you guy’s ever going to get it RIGHT???? Take some classes fellas in forecasting… read some books, watch some GED on line programs in meteorology, hell, call a friend and ask for HELP!!!! Something, but for goodness sakes , quit trying to make Mt Everest in your storm predictions , out of a speed bump! Your believability as well as your credibility has gone to crap!!!!

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