For The Weather Channel, A Hurricane is Primetime

By Alex Weprin 

New York Times media reporter Brian Stelter was embedded with a Weather Channel team in North Carolina over the weekend, and the fruits of his labor are now available. Stelter was working alongside Weather’s Mike Seidel in the Outer Banks of North Carolina:

“We haven’t missed a live shot in three hours!” he exclaimed while trying to stand up on the battered beach here in his seventh hour of live television reporting. A minute later, he was back on the Weather Channel, where he would stay for a total of 15 hours on Saturday, seeing, feeling and tasting the storm several times each hour as a surrogate for viewers and a guide for evacuees.

Yes, what Mr. Seidel does may seem crazy at times, but most important for him and for his bosses, it is compelling TV — the Weather Channel’s ratings are never higher than when a hurricane is making landfall. Like Home Depot selling plywood for windows or Wal-Mart selling jugs of water, the Weather Channel sells coverage of weather-related disasters. Delivering on its promise to take people into the path of Mother Nature is what makes the channel a must-carry for cable systems across the United States, and what allows it to sell so many storm-related ads to insurance companies and home improvement stores before, during and after storms.