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WTSP-Ch. 10's claim of weather accuracy challenged by Bay News 9



10_connects_logo_7hk1 The ads have run for a while now, touting CBS affiliate WTSP-Ch. 10 as featuring the Tampa market's most accurate weather forecasts based on an analysis from an "independent company" which "researched every station in town."

But the company which performed the analysis, Arizona-based WeatheRate, did not include area cable newschannel Bay News 9, which has made its "weather on the nines" forecasts a central part of its programming and brand.

The slight has left some folks at Bay News 9 questioning the accuracy of WTSP's commercial and WeatheRate's analyses.

Bay news 9 "Our research shows Bay News 9 is a preferred station (for viewers) during severe weather," said Terry Dolan, general manager at the Bright House Networks-owned newschannel. "I'm not sure how you can say (WTSP) was the most accurate in the market, when we weren't even included."

The conflict highlights ongoing skepticism among some in the local TV news industry over WeatheRate's service in general. When an Orlando station ran ads featuring the company's analysis, a competing news director said he was also offered the most accurate seal if he was willing to pay the company's licensing fee. "(Whoever) pays the fee becomes the most accurate," WFTV news director Bob Jordan told the Orlando Sentinel then.

But the company's president, Bruce Fixman, said WeatheRate calls the top station after their analysis is done, offering a deal allowing that outlet to use their logo and data in promotional materials for a licensing fee. Fixman said the company excluded Bay News 9 because they weren't aware of the channel and could include them in its next measurement period, which starts in March 2011.

For each station it evaluates, the company collects information on nine different forecast elements -- including high and low temperatures, storm predictions and sky cover -- looking at the weather forecasts on a station's website or allowing meteorologists to enter the information themselves, Fixman said.

Using math formulas, the company compares each station's predictions to actual measurements and reduces all the data to a single number; the station with the lowest number in the market is considered most accurate and offered a chance to buy the license. Though Fixman said the company measures 75 markets, it has about 18 licenses currently sold.

"I'm not just some weather geek pulling things at random," added Fixman, who said he had a college degree in meteorology. "In some markets, there has been a bit of controversy..I think they're upset they haven't been named Number One."

Pete Nikiel, director of marketing and promotion for WTSP, said the station's weather promotions reflect WeatheRate's data. "They told us we were Number One and months went by before we did anything about it," said Nikiel. "Then we decided -- that's not a bad message to send."

Even if Bay News 9 should perform well in future analyses, WeatheRate may not be getting any business from Bay News 9. "That company is not given a lot of credence at stations where I have worked," said Dolan.

[Last modified: Thursday, August 12, 2010 2:15pm]


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