LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Weather Channel is returning to DirecTV with a significant compromise that affects all of its viewers: it promises to focus more on the weather.
So began the first paragraph of an article in USA Today addressing the issue of The Weather Channel being off (and now back on) the satellite provider’s channels since January.
The Weather Channel is in the same boat as CNN. Each have a clear utility in the consumer’s mind. The problem is what they’re known for doesn’t happen often enough. Each is used for “breaking” information. With The Weather Channel it’s “breaking” weather or in CNN’s case “breaking” news. When there’s nothing “breaking,” few watch. That was OK in the mid 80’s, but in 2014 with more choices and more competition their audiences dwindle and their top line gets hurt. That means lower revenues.
That’s why The Weather Channel started naming winter storms. Sure it sounds stupid. If you grew up around the Great Lakes like I did and live in the Midwest you expect snow in the winter. The Weather Channel knows their ratings go sky high when a hurricane threatens the coastal states in the summer and those storms are named, so why not name a few inches of snow and make it sound like a blizzard.
In recent years, The Weather Channel got away from actually telling you about the weather and start airing reality shows. “Coast Guard HMS Bounty Rescue,” “Strangest Weather on Earth,” “Forecasting the End,” “Reef Wranglers,” “Ice Pilots” and the ever popular “Deadliest Space Weather.” Satellite providers like DirecTV took note and agreed with consumers – their programs sucked.
A few months ago The Weather Channel went to DirecTV and said they wanted more money in subscription fees. DirectTV told them their channel sucked and there would be no more money, in fact there would be less and to get back to forecasting the weather. DirecTV then signed up WeatherNationTV and put it on The Weather Channel’s channel. WeatherNationTV actually forecasts the weather. Few of DirecTV’s 20 million customers missed Al Roker and Jim Cantore. The Weather Channel caved and after 3 months agreed to DirecTV’s offer.
Being a nice guy, Dan York, DirecTV’s Chief Content Officer, apologized for the “frustrating” issues and added they now have a “better deal and a better product.” To make it look like a win-win, DirecTV gave The Weather Channel a nominal increase – less than a full cent per subscriber. The Weather Channel agreed their shows sucked and agreed to cut the reality shows by half during the week and get back to telling you the weather.
The Weather Channel miscalculated its value with consumers in these negotiations. They expected DirecTV customers to be angry about their inability to watch “Deadliest Space Weather.” No one cared. They chose to ignore the fact people now get their weather online or on their smartphones. There’s no need to wait for “Weather on the 8’s.”
Comcast and Time Warner Cable are merging. There are rumors of DirecTV and Dish Network merging. Providers are consolidating their powers. The truth is outside of live play-by-play sports on ESPN or an exclusive show or two on HBO, few cable channels provide anything unique. Cable channels are going to find negotiations more difficult in the future. They need to realize you can get what they provide in other places like your iPad or iPhone.
Content is king as long as its in a place convenient for your customer to watch or listen (“Deadliest Space Weather” excluded).