Fox News’ free, ad-supported streaming weather service Fox Weather launched two years ago today, and we went behind the scenes at its News Corp. building headquarters this week to get the lay of the land.
First, we sat down with Fox Weather meterologist and morning co-anchor Britta Merwin at the conclusion of her daily live show, Fox Weather First. An original Fox Weather on-air personality who joined the service from Houston’s NBC station, Merwin touched on how the service has changed since its 2021 launch.
“The accessibility is different,” said Merwin. “When we first came up, it was really just the app. It was this idea of getting it all through here [pointing at her phone]. Now, you find us everywhere. I have family members that watch. The aunts and uncles are like, ‘Oh, now, I can see you on TV! Oh, I can pop on my streaming TV. There’s this cool icon that says Fox Weather, and it turns out it’s you.’ So, it’s neat to see where people are finding us and how easy it is for people to find us.”
She added, “But I think the mission is very much the same. We we formed as a company with a very strong image of what we wanted to provide America and what mattered to us. How you find us has changed dramatically, and to see how much it’s grown in two years is pretty impressive.”
We then asked Merwin what weather event (or events) our readers should be on the lookout for.
“I think Americans need to get more comfortable with being uncomfortable,” she said. “I’ve been a meteorologist for 15 years, and just what I’ve seen in my career with how storms are going, natural disasters are happening more often, and they’re at a greater impact.”
Merwin added, “I think you find a lot more Americans now that have lived through a hurricane or when you’re when you go to a party, you meet somebody new, there’s actually a good chance that they’ve been through an extreme weather event. It wasn’t like that 20 years ago.
I think Americans need to understand that there’s going to be more of that, and take ownership in knowing how to arm themselves with knowledge and having the power to make the decisions that they need to make for their families, because if you’re not used to living through natural disaster, you might have a little complacency of thinking that somebody is going to tell you. You really need to arm yourself with information, make your own plan and make it happen.”
We concluded our chat with Merwin by asking her the multi-million dollar question: “With so much competition out there and so many ways to get the news about weather right now, why are Fox Weather and weather TV in general still essential?”
“People are always going to want a human face and a human feel,” she replied. “I lived through [Hurricane] Harvey, my neighborhood was evacuated. I didn’t see my kids for two weeks. Going through that was interesting, because it was the first time I lived through a natural disaster that I was covering, and I remember specifically, it was right when grocery stores finally reopened because we didn’t have anything going on. Once Interstate-10 opened up, and we had things coming in to the grocery stores, I went shopping with my kids, we had been separated they they rode out the storm with family in a different state because we knew that I would be working on stuff and that was our family plan and we executed it. And when they came back, we went shopping and this woman came up to us and she said, “I just want to hold you I want to give you a hug.” She just started crying and she’s like, “you’re the person that made me know that it was going to be okay. I turn on the TV every day.’ And that’s what people are always going to want. Sure. you can get your weather anywhere but when it gets scary and it does get scary, you feel calm and confidence. When you see somebody that you trust tell you ‘hey, this is what’s going on. This is your next step. You’re going to be fine and we’re going to get through it together.'”
After our sit-down with Merwin, we walked over to Studio W, which serves as the on-air home of Fox Weather’s mid-morning program Weather Command.
Upon entering the Weather Command set, you’re taken with how big and bright the space is. The Weather Command Center is a dedicated area on set where meteorologists can show detailed weather conditions and provide up-to-the-minute accuracy for weather events. The area allows Fox Weather producers on set to monitor all 32 weather graphic systems, radar maps, and multiple live cameras from across the country (with 32 monitors in big screen panel display). The ribbon monitors can display seven data widgets consisting of live weather data and radar maps. The Ribbon can also display weather alert branding that takes over all seven displays. This touchscreen can dock into the set but can also move around the studio. The monitor can rotate landscape and portrait to tell two different types of stories.
Built in time for the service’s launch two years ago today, Amy Freeze, Stephen Morgan and Michael Estime anchored and reported the Fox Weather forecast from the studio Tuesday in the 9 a.m. ET hour. While Freeze and Estime were seated at the anchor table throughout the hour, Morgan was often seeing reporting from various areas within the studio.
The top story of the hour was a “super fog” that influenced a massive car pileup on Interstate-55 just west of New Orleans on Monday. “Super fog” is essentially a thick fog that develops in damp, smoky conditions and can send visibilities plummeting to less than 10 feet. The New Orleans area has received FAR less rain this year than usual, so the probability of brush fires developing in nearby marshes isn’t particularly surprising. This is a story ideal for Fox Weather — a breaking news story with national impact and a strong weather angle.
During a commercial break, we noticed one of the anchors chatting with a producer/off-air meteorologist stationed at the computers off to one side of the studio. He confirmed that an easterly wind brought the I-55 brush fire. He also went over a couple of tidbits worth bringing up on air.
A secondary story covered during the hour is an imminent “Super El Niño Winter” out West. Amy Freeze interviewed a Colorado State University professor about what’s sure to be another warm but snow-heavy winter in the Rockies and Nevada.
We spent about 30 minutes inside Studio W before heading over to the lower level of the News Corp. building, bound for Fox Weather control room 3, where we encountered longtime morning and cable news producer Wil Surratt overseeing the broadcast. We stopped to chat briefly with Surratt, now Fox Weather’s vp of programming and content, who told us why he decided to join Fox Weather last year and why he feels it’s an important platform.
“[Fox Weather president] Sharri Berg is a strong influence in wanting to embrace a new project,” said Surratt. “When I heard about the project and I spoke to Sharri for the first time, she had such a passion for where weather coverage was going. As weather interest expands, when you’ve got more cameras across the country, when you’ve got new technology and things like that — it was really Sharri’s passion sold me.”
He added, “The combination of Sharri’s passion, working at Fox, a fantastic place to work, and also going into the FAST [free ad-supported television] channel space; making that a target, making that focus of interest. It’s a new medium. How do audiences acquire information and acquire content through a FAST channel space? That, to me, is super exciting, and it’s something I want to be a part of.”
Surratt also touched on the evolution of Fox Weather since he joined last year, which includes the service obtaining additional distribution, critical for its continued existence. During the first 30 days of launch, Fox Weather could be streamed on the Fox Weather site and app, Fox Nation, Fox Now, Fox Television Stations (FTS), and Fox News Digital. Fast forward nearly two years, since Surratt has arrived, Fox Weather can now be accessed across Roku Portal, SamsungTV+, LG, Vizio, Plex, Amazon FreeVee, YouTube TV, Youtube.com, Tubi, Cox, Spectrum, Xumo, DirecTV, Vizbee, Fubo, along with the aforementioned Fox Weather (web and app), Fox Nation, FTS, and Fox News Digital.
“The past year has been just one roller coaster of exciting events of another,” he said. “Whether it’s the actual weather events, or whether it’s our own growth, and those things are sort of tied together.
We’ve been covering all these big stories, we’ve been growing and we’re getting extra distribution. We’re on Samsung TV+, already our highest audience already, and we just joined in August. So, the convergence of the big weather events that are happening with the growth of this channel has me really excited.”