Make us your home page
Instagram

Critics squall at Weather Channel's colorful coverage

BREEZY POINT, N.Y. — The sky is cloudless and blue in this coastal community of bungalows by the sea. But Stephanie Abrams has disaster on her mind.

A meteorologist with the Weather Channel, Abrams is here to co-host the network's morning shows to kick off the start of hurricane season. Her employer is predicting more storms this usual this year. Abrams has come to this town, which was walloped by Hurricane Sandy last year, to warn viewers of potential dangers in the months ahead.

"It only takes one — one Sandy or Katrina — in order for the entire U.S. or the entire world to feel that hurt and pain," she said, looking into the camera.

Seconds later, viewers watching the show live on TV saw a scary graphic of a gazebo battered by wind and rain. The station proclaimed itself Hurricane Central.

Bad weather is good business for the Weather Channel.

Helped by a steady string of blizzards, tropical storms, hurricanes and tornadoes, the cable channel has increased its revenue while some other media outlets have struggled. Even when the weather in most of the country is mild, the channel's round-the-clock coverage tends to be heavy with big graphics, capital letters and warnings of what bad weather could be unfolding somewhere, soon, in the United States. Such weather data are now expanding to the Web and cellphones, part of the reason the company changed its name to the Weather Co. from the Weather Channel late last year.

But as storms get fiercer and more frequent, the Weather Channel has come under fire for covering them in a way that seems more entertainment than information.

It decided last year to start giving names to winter storms, a unilateral move that drew ire from meteorologists and the National Weather Service, which is responsible for naming hurricanes.

Its coverage of "Nemo," the snowstorm that blanketed much of the East Coast in February, featured all-caps headlines such as "YOU MUST PREPARE NOW," links that allowed people to warn their friends that bad weather was coming, and graphics of snow and wind that more aptly depicted the Ice Age than a snowstorm.

The gossip site Gawker poked fun at the breathless coverage in an article with the headline "Snow Panic Has Driven Weather.com Completely Insane."

Still, big storms are catnip for advertisers. The fourth quarter of the 2012, which included Sandy and some other big winter storms, was a blockbuster, said Curt Hecht, chief global revenue officer for Weather Co., which is privately held. Weather.com had more page views on the first day of Sandy than NBC.com had for all of the London Olympics, he said.

"It's hard to say, 'Boy, we made a lot of money' when people have lost their homes," Hecht said. "But the reality is Sandy, from a hurricane perspective, was our largest ad monetization event."

The week of Hurricane Sandy, it averaged 780,000 viewers in the heavily viewed 6 to 10 a.m. time slot, more than double the previous week, according to the ad firm Horizon Media.

NBC joined two private equity firms to buy the Weather Channel in 2008, and since then weather shows have increasingly featured cross-promotions with other NBC properties, including segments from CNBC. The Weather Channel started airing more reality shows and television programs such as Deadliest Space Weather and Forecasting the End, running 11 series in 2012 and launching 15 this year.

Forecasting the End, according to promotional materials, is about how "catastrophic weather or natural disasters could possibly cause the end of days." A "Did You Know" section on the show's website warns viewers that "one fiery spark" of methane gas "could ignite global destruction."

Critics squall at Weather Channel's colorful coverage 07/09/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 9, 2013 8:25pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Dragon ride in Harry Potter section of Universal closing for new themed ride

    Florida

    Universal Orlando announced Monday that it will close Dragon Challenge for a new "highly themed" Harry Potter ride to open in 2019 — sending wizard fans into a guessing game with hopes for a Floo Powder Network or the maze from the Triwizard Tournament.

    Universal Orlando announced Monday that it will close Dragon Challenge on Sept. 5 for a new "highly themed" Harry Potter ride to open in 2019. The ride, originally the Dueling Dragons roller coaster, was renamed and incorporated into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter when the hugely popular area opened in 2010.
  2. Would you let your company implant a chip in you?

    Working Life

    Would you ask an employee to get a chip implanted in her hand? Sounds invasive and intrusive. But come Aug. 1, one company in Wisconsin will be giving it a try.

    Three Square Market - a developer of software used in vending machines - is offering all of its employees the option to get a microchip implanted between the thumb and forefinger. [Photo from video]
  3. Daniel Lipton resigns as artistic director of Opera Tampa

    Stage

    TAMPA — Daniel Lipton has resigned as artistic director of Opera Tampa, the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts announced.

    Daniel Lipton became the artistic director and conductor of Opera Tampa in 2012. Lipton replaced the opera's only previous director, Anton Coppola, who retired. [Times file (2012)]
  4. Throwback Tampa Bay station 102.9 goes from R&B jams to WFLA-AM's conservative talk

    Blogs

    Talk radio station WFLA-AM (970) began simulcasting on 102.9 FM in the Tampa area this morning. 

    Tampa's 102.9 is going from Throwback Tampa Bay to WFLA-AM's news radio.
  5. Bank of Tampa expanding into Sarasota

    Banking

    TAMPA — The Bank of Tampa is expanding to Sarasota County. It opened a loan office this month in downtown Sarasota at 1858 Ringling Blvd., which will be converted to a full-service branch within the year, the company said in a release Monday.

    The Bank of Tampa is expanding to Sarasota. Charles Murphy, pictured, will lead the Sarasota branch. | [Courtesy of The Bank of Tampa]