×

Weather Channel Boosts Bottom Line for New Owner

The Weather Channel is a locomotive in Entertainment Studios’ portfolio of businesses generating sizable cash-flow profit, enlarging entrée to advertisers because of its heft and, in what is often unappreciated by outsiders, serving as a media-technology engine.

To keep the Weather Channel cable network relevant in an era when information is readily available online and via personal devices, the linear basic cable network jazzes up its presentation with flashy media tech. Weather Channel serves up immersive mixed reality and augmented reality — layering digital images into real-world presentations as in in-studio weather telecasts.

The Weather Channel also delivers a dose of story-telling, weather news in broader context and connections to experts, which keeps audiences tuned in, says Janice Arouh, who is president-network distribution and marketing at Entertainment Studios Networks. The audience “wants to know more than just it’ll be sunny and 83 degrees,” Arouh says. “They want a deep dive into the ‘explainers of weather’ in their community, the story of the weather that will impact them and the imminent dangers presented by severe weather.”

Byron Allen-led Entertainment Studios acquired the Weather Channel in March reportedly for $300 million and the basic cable channel is the flagship within its Weather Group division. Associated digital properties including weather.com were not included and are owned by IBM, from which Entertainment Studio licenses the brand, data and analytics under a long-term contract. Today, Entertainment Studios-owned Weather Channel cable network, which launched in 1982, is headquartered in Atlanta and has 400 employees.

The Weather Channel is succeeding as an economic proposition, according to Derek Baine, research director for media and communications/Kagan at S&P Global Market Intelligence. “It’s a cash cow and has a good market presence,” though subscriber count is slowly eroding under the industry trend of cord-cutting, Baine says. The Weather Channel generated $346.8 million in aggregate revenue in 2018, mainly from advertising sales and channel carriage fees paid by cable/satellite TV platforms, according to Kagan Estimates from S&P Global Market Intelligence. S&P figures that its carriage fees ticked up slightly to 16 cents per subscriber per month, which is an achievement as cable/satellite systems negotiate to grind down per-sub fees as cord-cutting squeezes industry economics.

Total subscriber count is slowly drifting downward to 79.8 million U.S. cable/satellite TV subscribers in 2018, although overall revenue is holding steady, according to S&P. The only major multichannel TV platform not offering the Weather Channel is Verizon’s FiOS, though Entertainment Studios says it working on getting a carriage deal.

The Weather Channel’s TV audience grew by several metrics in 2018, benefitting from a rash of bad weather and what insiders feel is improved inclement-weather coverage. The cable network consistently tops consumer surveys (its main rival as a linear basic cable network is AccuWeather Network). The Weather Channel received its first national news and documentary Emmy nomination last year for its breaking coverage of Hurricane Harvey.

Programming is more than weather reports, with original TV shows such “Heroes & Survivors” in extreme weather, clip show “Weather Gone Viral” and “SOS: How to Survive” starring Creek Stewart. Those reality shows are stripped across evening time periods and weekend afternoons. Weather Channel senior vice president-content and programming Nora Zimmett says the series have a common denominator of being “character driven with the weather coming to get you.”

Entertainment Studios is planting Weather Channel businesses in digital, since IBM owns its original package of digital assets. Weather Channel sends customized over-the-top content streams though its 3-year-old “Local Now” initiative that is geo-targeted and connects to the millennial audience demographic. In August, its @Pattern weather initiative launched on Twitter to “tell science, climate change and nature stories,” says Zimmett. And finally, there’s fan engagement tool WeLoveWeather.com, though it’s not designed to be a monetized venture.

Pundits caution that the tsunami of basic weather information available on-demand via smart phones threatens the linear TV channel franchise, but Weather Channel insiders disagree, saying lively presentation with cutting-edge media tech, story-telling and human expertise will continue to wow audiences. Competition for weather info via “an app is nothing more than a score card,” says Arouh. “It just tells you a number.”

More TV

  • Orange is the New Black

    How 'Orange Is the New Black' Changed TV Forever (Column)

    When Netflix debuted “House of Cards” in 2013, it seemed like streaming was going to mimic premium as we already knew it. The premiere of “Orange Is the New Black” five months later ended that notion for good. Based on Piper Kerman’s memoir, the show ostensibly followed Piper (played by Taylor Schilling), a bright but [...]

  • Kian Lawley Starring in Finnish Comedy

    Kian Lawley, Katherine C. Hughes Starring in Finnish Comedy 'Perfect Commando'

    Kian Lawley, who was dropped from movie “The Hate U Give” last year after a video resurfaced of him that included racist comments, has landed a starring role alongside Katherine C. Hughes (“Blue Bloods”) in the Finnish comedy “Perfect Commando.” The series is the latest original for Elisa Viihde’s Aitio streaming service, and will be [...]

  • Chris Hardwick Aziz Ansari MeToo Comeback

    Aziz Ansari, Chris Hardwick's Reemergence Complicate the #MeToo Conversation

    Aziz Ansari’s new Netflix stand-up special “Right Now” marks the comedian’s return to the spotlight more than a year after being publicly accused of sexual impropriety, an allegation that has proved to be divisive, fueling discussions about what is considered consent and what constitutes sexual assault. His isn’t the only redemptive arc forming at the [...]

  • Jenji Kohan with two-time Emmy winner

    Inside 'Orange Is the New Black's' Unlikely Journey to Become Netflix's Most-Watched Original

    Before “Netflix and chill” entered the cultural lexicon, before the streaming platform won its first Emmy, before it started inking deals with major showrunners, Netflix in the early 2010s was testing out a hypothesis about the public’s appetite for premium-quality television shows on the internet. It had recently recovered from the Qwikster debacle — an [...]

  • John Malone

    Liberty Global and Vodafone's $21.5 Billion Cable Deal Cleared by European Authorities

    The European Commission has approved Vodafone’s $21.5 billion deal for a raft of Liberty Global assets in Europe, with conditions attached. The commission had investigated the deal on the grounds that it could reduce competition and lead to higher prices for consumers. It concluded, however, that the deal could go ahead with conditions. These include [...]

  • Harlots

    ITV Takes Majority Stake in ‘Harlots’ Producer Monumental Television

    ITV Studios now has a controlling stake in Monumental Television, the production company that makes Hulu series “Harlots” and that was founded by Oscar-nominated film producers Alison Owen and Debra Hayward. ITV first bought into the company in 2015 and has upped its stake from 26% to 51%. Julian Bellamy, managing director of ITV Studios, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content