The Weather Channel held its first full-blown upfront presentation this morning at the Mandarin Oriental in New York, with Weather Co. president David Kenny touting a new slate of originals and recent shows that represent a change in the forecast for the elderly cable network. It's been five years since Weather had an upfront of any kind, but it's always been a party and never (until now) a programming presentation.
Up soon on the network: Freaks of Nature, a series about people who exhibit strange and unusual powers; and Strangest Weather on Earth, about everything from volcanic smoke rings to rains of frogs. Both series were approved for 12 30-minute episodes, and have nine planned. Storm Warriors, about people who work in severe inclement weather, will have six half-hour segments. Also on the slate: Coast Guard: Cape Disappointment, a new edition of the network's highest-profile franchise from Al Roker Entertainment. The new programming boosts Weather Channel content to 20 original programs.
The company played up its ad opportunities: Its devoted viewers, said chief global revenue officer Curt Hecht, are "weather enthusiasts," in line with corporate co-parent NBCU's predisposition for branding viewerships (Bravo's watchers are "affluencers," Syfy's are "igniters.") It also announced a new partnership with Twitter (where it directs plenty of traffic these days), which will allow Weather and its partners to generate promotions around weather-related activity on the microblogging site. The partnership will use new Twitter tech Cards, which allows for embedded video—in this case, forecasts and severe weather coverage. The bones of the partnership are similar to Twitter's deal last year with ESPN around sports-related chatter. The company beefed up its ad sales team recently, christening it WeatherFX.
The network also ordered up three Web series from Efram Films, each for six 2-4 minute segments.
Now two-thirds owned by private equity groups Blackstone and Bain Capital, the channel was able to make the case for a greater investment on the programming side, Kenny said. The exec also noted contemporary fears about increasingly intense weather. "Because the climate is changing—and that's not really a debate—the weather has become more scary," he told an audience of media and ad buyers.
With the week turning into a marathon of early breakfasts (Bravo held its press event yesterday; Discovery International will present tomorrow), Weather set out to impress with an opening act by an a cappella group, which performed the sounds of a storm on the stage. To close out the show, two of the network's forecasters gave attendees the lowdown on the weekend's weather, complete with custom graphics.