The Weather Channel is planning its largest programming push in its history over the next year, expanding not only its morning and dayside weather news programs, but also its entertainment and long-form programming in primetime. “Wake Up with Al” will be sticking around, but will be joined by new shows.
At a splashy upfront presentation at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in New York City this morning, the channel pulled back the curtain on what is coming down the pipeline. It was the first upfront event for the company in five years, and the first real presentation in its history.
“This is an incredible, incredible thing, because being at the Weather Channel 26 years, I have never seen us do something like this, and throw something this huge,” meteorologist Jim Cantore said.
Aside from the programming, the biggest change viewers will see is the graphics packages, which are being redesigned to be consistent across all of the Weather Company platforms, including Weather.com and the Weather app. The new TV graphics bear a striking resemblance to the graphics found on the website and app. Local weather and information will always be on-screen, at leastin the morning, when so many viewers tune in to the channel.
Then there is primetime. While the mornings and dayside are the “prime” viewing times for Weather, the channel has long been trying to figure out how to gain share in primetime. Given that the channel is in some 100 million homes, and often has good channel placement, there is no reason why it shouldn’t be able to. The channel has been criticized for its expansion into reality shows, and while the new slate of programming includes plenty of those, it also features long-form documentary programming with an emphasis on weather. Character-driven reality shows like “Prospectors” will co-exist with series like “The Strangest Weather On Earth.”
Weather Company CEO David Kenny said that in prime, the channel was looking to target the “weather enthusiast.”
“The weather enthusiasts are 50 million strong, they are not a small group, they are really curious, they are really engaged, they over-index on weather… because they do stuff, and it helps them do stuff,” Kenny said. “They come to us regularly and seek out our content to help plan their lives and get smarter about the weather, so it makes great sense for us to super serve them, while always being mindful to appeal to a broader audience, as weather affects everyone and shapes their interests, emotions and behaviors.”
You can read about the new primetime and digital programs below
NEW ORIGINAL SERIES:
“Secrets of the Earth” (Premieres May 23 at 8 p.m. ET)
“Secrets of the Earth” explores our planet with the same sense of awe and wonder normally reserved for alien worlds. Computer graphics, visual analogies and a recurring cast of expert scientists combine to reveal new aspects of the world you think you know, from canyons of gravity that warp space and time to rain triggered by cosmic rays. “Secrets of the Earth,” produced by Flight 33 Productions (“Deadliest Space Weather,” “Rocket City Rednecks”), will feature 9x 30-minute episodes.
“Weather That Changed The World” (Premieres June 6 at 9 p.m. ET)
Severe drought, torrential rain, extreme cold and unpredictable winds are among nature’s most powerful forces. Those extreme conditions have also created dramatic turning points in history. Evidence from historic battles and lost civilizations shows how underestimating or incorrectly predicting the weather has often had unexpected consequences. How did an iceberg cause the Titanic to sink? When did bad weather save the U.S. Capitol? How and when did weather and natural forces wage war directly on entire populations – sometimes erasing them completely? “Weather That Changed The World,” through past extreme weather footage, reconstructions and surprise insight from experts, reveals how the history of the world has been defined by weather and how weather-shaped events impact us today. “Weather That Changed the World,” produced by Pioneer Productions (“Curiosity,” “Deadliest Tornadoes”), will feature 9x 30-minute episodes.
“Storm Warriors” (Premieres August 2013)
“Storm Warriors” combines the power of incredible machines and extreme conditions to show how people survive and work in the world’s worst weather environments – weather so bad, no sane person would dare to brave it unless they had to. From ice-breaking in the Arctic to saving a community from floods in Fargo, ND, to making desperate repairs to a pipeline in the Gulf of Mexico—it’s engineering on the edge of reason, in the most extreme weather. “Storm Warriors” is produced by WAGTV and will feature 6x 30-minute episodes.
“Strangest Weather on Earth” (Premieres September 2013)
Big hail, high winds, and extreme lightning shows are nothing compared to the real “Strangest Weather on Earth” – from raining frogs to volcano smoke rings, instant ice storms to huge sandstorms – this series presents fascinating explorations as to what causes each one. Each episode will feature several examples of weird, wacky and extreme weather such as airborne fish, saucer clouds, and a wave made of rock. “Strangest Weather on Earth,” also produced by Pioneer Productions, will feature 12x 30-minute episodes.
“Freaks of Nature” (Premieres September 2013)
“Freaks of Nature” introduces viewers to extraordinary people who possess the power to control, manipulate or conquer nature, performing feats that could harm or kill the average human. They may brave sub-zero temps in just a pair of shorts; pass electricity through their body and out their fingertips in a bolt of lightning; set themselves on fire, claiming to be fireproof; and fly like a human-bird at speeds more than 100 mph. “Freaks of Nature” is produced by Off The Fence and will feature 12x 30-minute episodes.
Clark also discussed weather.com’s investment in original content and video online and on mobile, introducing three new web series premiering online this summer – the first time the site will feature series specifically produced for the web. They include:
“Brink” (working title, launches June 3)
“Brink” follows eco-heroes fighting to save embattled species on the brink before it’s too late.
“The Bucket List” (WT, launches July 1)
“The Bucket List” takes viewers on a journey to the most stunning natural places on Earth.
“The Explorers” (WT, launches August 5)
“The Explorers” profiles the world’s toughest pioneers who’ve battled the most extreme weather on Earth and lived to tell.
Each series will feature 6x 2-4 min. episodes, with all six episodes of a series launching on the same date. All three series are co-produced by Efran Films, headed by Emmy and Peabody Award-winning former “60 Minutes” producer Shawn Efran.