How CNN and The Weather Channel Will Use VR and AR to Cover the Great American Eclipse

Volvo will produce a live ad during the solar event

Volvo will produce a live ad during the solar event for CNN. Source: iStock. Illustration: Dianna McDougall
Headshot of A.J. Katz

You have probably heard about the Great American Eclipse that will be visible in totality across a sliver of the United States on Monday, Aug. 21.

This is the first total solar eclipse to reach the U.S. mainland since Feb. 26, 1979, and the first to stretch from coast to coast since June 8, 1918.

The Great American Eclipse, when the earth, moon and sun will align, presents a unique opportunity for TV news networks and brands to get in front of a significant audience tuning in for the once-in-a-lifetime event.

CNN and The Weather Channel are planning on devoting significant resources to covering the eclipse.

When CNN’s livestream of the eclipse enters a commercial break, CNN’s brand studio Courageous will produce live ads for Volvo in 4K virtual reality and 360-degree video across all of CNN’s digital and social platforms.

This will be the first of a larger live ads effort from CNN parent company Turner and the Courageous studio.

“Since launching Courageous, we’ve been intensely focused on experimenting with new creative formats and innovating with our marketing partners to help tell more powerful brand stories,” Turner’s svp of news content partnerships Michal Shapira told Adweek. “Live ads are simply the next iteration of this effort, born from the fact that we live in a ‘live’ culture that values real-time experiences.”

This particular campaign centers on a 360-degree view of the eclipse and helps celebrate the 360-degree camera feature in Volvo’s all-new 2018 XC60.

Volvo brought this 360-degree concept to multiple media outlets before going with CNN.

“We wanted to bring the innovation and creativity that Volvo is known for into viewing the eclipse, a once-in-a-lifetime event,” Volvo’s vp of marketing, product and brand communications Bob Jacobs told Adweek. “We developed a virtual reality and 360-degree camera concept that we pitched to multiple media outlets. After an extensive search, we chose to partner with CNN, who we believe will provide an exceptional and immersive media event.”

On the day of the eclipse, Courageous will station four cameras in different locations around the country where they will film influencers, sharing their perspective on the significance of the eclipse as it happens.

These include Richard Wiese (president of the Explorers Club), Andy Weir (author of The Martian), Kara Cooney (Egyptologist) and Cady Coleman (retired astronaut). Each will arrive at the eclipse viewing location in a XC60. The cars will be equipped with 4K VR and 360-degree cameras to help capture the commercial.

“This incredible partnership aligns Volvo with CNN’s live VR capabilities, our award-winning brand studio Courageous, and massive global reach to capture this unique moment in time, while underscoring the spirit of the all-new Volvo XC60 to embrace the future,” said Shapira.

As with all weather and meteorological events, The Weather Channel will provide in-depth coverage of the Great American Eclipse.

TWC’s Jen Carfagno will cover the eclipse from the roof of the Adventure Science Center in Nashville and hopes weather won’t become an issue.

“I think for the millions of people who are going to travel, the cloud forecast is a major ‘make-or-break it’ piece of the entire puzzle, and that’s yet to be determined,” Carfagno, host of The Weather Channel’s AMHQ, told Adweek. “In the summertime, clouds especially in the southeast and in the Midwest start bubbling up almost every afternoon, and if they’re in the wrong place at the right time, that’s going to mean a really difficult sky show for folks who are there.”

The Weather Channel meteorologists will be reporting live from locations across the country throughout the day. The eclipse is set to move coast-to-coast from approximately 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET, and the totality of the eclipse will pass through the Nashville area for about 2 minutes at approximately 1:25 p.m. CDT.

When asked how she and her Weather Channel colleagues will cover this unique event, Carfagno said: “Never has a storm moved at 1,500 miles per hour across the nation, but The Weather Channel has tracked storms moving and affecting different locations across the country and the world. You might consider this eclipse a ‘storm cloud shadow’ so to speak, moving across the country but in a very visual and emotional way for many people.”

In addition to stationing meteorologists across the country, TWC will also deploy its augmented reality technology to take viewers into space and help those watching at home understand the science behind this extraordinary event.

“Our Total Solar Eclipse experience will span from live broadcasting across the country augmented reality technology in-studio, to sweepstakes for a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience the eclipse from 35,000 feet,” Weather Channel’s svp of live programming Nora Zimmett told Adweek. “We’re utilizing everything we have to offer to give viewers the opportunity to experience this incredible phenomenon, no matter where they are.”

In partnership with Royal Caribbean, The Weather Channel will also broadcast live from the Total Eclipse Cruise in the Atlantic, to show viewers at home the totality of the eclipse from sea.

@ajkatztv A.J. Katz is the senior editor of Adweek's TVNewser.