Sunday, March 15, 2015

Television Storm

Given that horrible cyclone in the South Pacific that just laid waste to Vanuatu and is about to affect part of New Zealand, there's enough drama going on in the weather today without the unsettled atmosphere on the tube.
The Pennsylvania-based AccuWeather forecasting service - it of the 45-day forecasts that don't have much accuracy - has launched its own TV channel to compete with The Weather Channel.  As ludicrous as AccuWeather's reputation may be, The Weather Channel has become something of a joke itself.  Some of its on-air forecasters are becoming known more for their physical attractiveness than for their meteorological prowess.  I'm taking about the men, not the women; note how the meteorologically savvy Jim Cantore has gone from bushy-haired nerd to pumped-up bald stud.  Also, the channel has been airing many documentaries during the afternoon weekend hours - few of which have to do with the weather - when all you want to do is check and see if it's going to rain or snow, and its weekday morning program, "AM HQ," has been a disaster.  Sam Champion, the show's host, started out with forecasters Mike Bettes and Maria LaRosa as the support squad and some dude whose name I can't remember giving a sports report.  (Does ESPN track hurricanes?)  The idea was to concoct a morning show not unlike "Today" or "Good Morning America," but The Weather Channel somehow forgot the mission implicit in the channel's name.  Mike Bettes and Maria LaRosa are gone, now off to other time slots on the channel, and Jim Cantore has joined Champion with Jennifer Delgado as their sidekick.
Bearing all that in mind, AccuWeather's channel vows to focus squarely on the weather and eschew cutesy-pie morning programs or reality shows about gold prospectors.  Its planning to go after The Weather Channel hard and develop its own reputation and loyal audience.  The TV service Verizon Fios has gone ahead and dumped The Weather Channel from its lineup in favor of the AccuWeather channel.  The Weather Channel has responded by trying to scare people into demanding that Verizon Fios restore it to its service,  lest you miss some really serious news about an impending storm, as if AccuWeather won't report that . . . even as The Weather Channel reports less and less on the weather itself.  This scare tactic against Verizon Fios has created more ridicule than hysteria; WPIX-TV's Joe Cioffi has dismissively called The Weather Channel "the Onion" of weather forecasting, after the satirical news magazine.
I don't watch The Weather Channel all that much myself these days, although I regularly consult its Web site - along with other weather Web sites, as I try to get as many different forecasts as possible because there are variations between them when it comes to long-range predictions.  There are several weather outlets now, both on TV and the Internet.  And there's the problem The Weather Channel has.  It's no longer the only game in town.  It's one of many forecasting services in a fragmented media market, and those who aren't enamored with its shtick are perfectly free to seek forecasts elsewhere.  And many are apparently doing just that.
Please note that I never took the low road by making fun of The Weather Channel's penchant for naming winter storms after mythological figures.      

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