A major storm rained down on Winter TV Press Tour 2014 this morning when The Weather Channel took the stage to blast DirectTV over their current carriage dispute. In anticipation of the channel’s appearance before a couple hundred journalists at the tour, it issued an ominous campaign late last night warning viewers they needed to contact their congressional reps to intervene, or else DirecTV would take away “its critical weather programming,” calling it a “public safety issue.”
TV critics at the press tour weren’t entirely drinking The Weather Channel’s Kool-aid. One critic noted TWC is a successful company owned by a big corporation, asking “Is it fair to declare it a public utility?” in what’s really a business dispute.
“Absolutely. And I’m not kidding,” Weather Channel president David Clark responded ominously. “If you’ve ever been in a severe weather situation and you need to make a decision to protect your family and you need to make it fast” you need “to know your information comes from a trusted source… We have a mission to serve that we take seriously. Don’t think you can stand a fly-by-night alternative to that,” he said, warning “you’re going to be putting your audience at risk.”
And by “fly-by-night” he meant a little channel called WeatherNation that the satellite giant’s subscribers might have noticed appearing right next to Weather Channel on DirecTV’s lineup in recent weeks, as the satcaster’s carriage deal with The Weather Channel is set to expire next week.
At Clark’s side on stage, The Weather Channel’s pricey new hire Sam Champion warned “there isn’t one,” in re alternatives to The Weather Channel in a weather emergency. “I’d love to say we can rest assured we’re safe in our homes because of BLANK. There isn’t one… Getting people ready, getting them through a storm that is the worst time in their life, is something I don’t take lightly, and this channel does it better than anyone else — anywhere . The Coast Guard, the Navy — everybody — police officers, fire officers watch this channel during emergencies to get information. That’s a responsibility that no one takes lightly. What we’re trying to say is we want people to have access to it.”
And what was the villain of The Weather Channel’s drama, while Champion was speaking so passionately? Up to some rannygazoo, issuing its own official statement blaming the Weather Channel fracas on “numerous customer complaints” about The Weather Channel’s abundance of reality programming.
The scare campaign in the DirecTV kerfuffle wasn’t the only blot on the landscape during The Weather Channel’s appearance at the tour. The network also took a drubbing over its decision to start naming winter storms – a gimmick at which the National Weather Service has sniffed.
Champion jumped in to say he was one of the program’s critics – before joining The Weather Channel last month – because he is always all about helping people and he did not see how naming a storm Hercules helped people. He now understands, he said, “how quickly these storms move across the country” morphing from region to region “the need to track them in social media” requires one hashtag. This really works much better as a new way of tracking information” on Twitter and Facebook, he insisted, wondering how anyone managed to track a storm on Twitter before TWC started naming them. “Now you can track damage of a storm and its effects across the country and know it’s the same entity.”
One critic noted The National Weather Service isn’t endorsing the idea and asked, “Do you really want to have the perception you and the Weather Service are not on the same page?”
The two men insisted they have a great relationship with the service, though they disagree on this point. Tk added patronizingly “Often the private sector moves ahead of the public sector.” He acknowledged it’s gotten TWC “great visibility” but insisted, “We stumbled on it” and “our heart was in the right place.”
“We do think it’s an important thing to do” adding they’d be “happy for the weather service to take it over,” but, in response to a critics suggestion his channel back down, insisted, “we’re not going to stop doing it.”
In what has turned out to be one of the zippiest sessions of the tour so far, critics wondered if Al Roker had a future on the network, now that Champion was on board.
“I love me some Al Roker,” Champion responded, noting Roker’s show currently airs before his new show’s start time of 7 AM ET. “I can’t live without Al Roker — and I don’t think you can either,” Champion cooed.
Last month, word broke of the first successful raid on ABC’s popular Good Morning America on-air team. Weatherman Champion left to become managing editor, a producer, and anchor of a new flagship morning show at The Weather Channel. Not coincidentally, Weather Channel is co-owned by NBC, whose Today show is now regularly getting whomped by GMA, after monopolizing the daypart for years.
At The Weather Channel, Champion is joining his Today rival Al Roker, who used to be America’s fave morning weatherman but these days, not so much. Roker currently hosts WC’s 6 AM Wake Up With Al, but, of course, Weather Channel is in the early stages of a re-launch. This morning, Champion insisted Roker’s show is sticking.
From The Weather Channel’s statement:
“For DIRECTV to take us off their lineup would be deeply irresponsible to its customers who not only count on The Weather Channel on a day-to-day basis, but depend on us before, during and after severe weather events. As the most trusted source of weather news and information in America, The Weather Channel is there when it matters most. If we are not available to DIRECTV’s 20 million viewers, they will miss the accurate and life-saving information we have been providing for more than 30 years,” said David Kenny, chairman and CEO of The Weather Company, parent company of The Weather Channel. “We have offered the industry’s best rate for our programming and are committed to reaching an agreement.”
Starting today, The Weather Channel will begin asking DIRECTV viewers and all Weather Channel supporters to call their Representative and Senators in Washington and ask them to help keep this critical public safety resource in the DIRECTV lineup. Given the increasing frequency and severity of weather-related emergencies across the country, access to timely and accurate weather information is imperative for public safety and, therefore, an issue meriting Congressional attention.
The campaign, aimed at demonstrating the critical public safety role of The Weather Channel, will be supported by a multifaceted direct-to-consumer campaign that will include advertising on The Weather Channel, weather.com and on The Weather Channel’s mobile apps. Viewers who are interested in getting involved are encouraged to visit http://www.keeptheweatherchannel.com. Here, consumers can submit a letter to their Congressional representative and can find a list of Congressional office numbers to call to make their voice heard. Consumers are also encouraged to use social media to get involved with the campaign by sharing the keeptheweatherchannel.com URL, tweeting @directv using the hastag #stormdirectv, and posting on DIRECTV’s Facebook page.
Every day, 100 million households rely on The Weather Channel to provide critical and accurate real-time weather-related information. With more than 220 meteorologists, forecasting covers the entire United States from the national and regional level, all the way down to the hyperlocal street level. The Weather Channel also maintains two-way partnerships with public and non-profit emergency response organizations, including The American Red Cross, FEMA and NOAA, allowing for a constant flow and disbursement of critical weather-related information when it matters most.
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