The Weather Channel (also TWC) is a commercially-sponsored U.S. cable and satellite television network that broadcasts weather forecasts and weather-related news 24 hours a day. In addition to its cable TV programming, TWC also provides forecasts for terrestrial and satellite radio stations, newspapers, and websites, and maintains an extensive online presence at weather.com. The Weather Channel debuted its high-definition simulcast on September 26, 2007.
On January 3, 2008, it was reported that the family owned Landmark Communications, parent company of The Weather Channel, may be for sale. On July 7, 2008, NBC Universal announced plans on purchasing the channel and assets for $3.5 billion along with private equity firms The Blackstone Group and Bain Capital. The deal was made and closed on September 12th, 2008.
A major part of the plan for the new network was that it would be able to provide localized weather information to its viewers. This was done through WeatherSTAR units located at each cable company's headend. These WeatherSTARs were able to insert local conditions, forecasts, and warnings over the national feed.
The Weather Channel went on the air on May 2, 1982. The channel reports the weather and other meteorological information for the United States as well as other countries and regions of the world. TWC originally gathered its national region forecasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and gathered its local forecasts from local National Weather Service offices, but since 2002 has done local forecasting in-house from Atlanta. However, current weather and forecast model data is still provided by the NWS and NOAA, and the ultraviolet index and air quality index reports are from the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The Weather Channel does not have any local meteorologists outside of the Atlanta area.
In May 2007, The Weather Channel celebrated 25 years on the air, the festivities including airing select past Weather Channel commercials and showing a special 25th anniversary logo during commercial breaks (see Logos section below for details).
In 2008, The Weather Channel was embroiled in scandal after rumors abounded about now former on-camera meteorologist Bob Stokes sexually harassing another former anchor, Hillary Andrews. Andrews filed a lawsuit through Cobb County district court against The Weather Channel alleging the abuse by Stokes (which included statements like "Will you lick my swizzle stick," and saying that 'TWC' "covered it up"). In May, 2008, Andrews won her lawsuit and was awarded an undisclosed amount of money. During the proceedings, it was revealed that Stokes' co-anchor before Andrews, Lisa Mozer, was also harassed.
The Weather Channel produces a service, based on modified versions of WeatherStar technology, called Weatherscan on which a separate channel constantly displays local and regional conditions and forecasts along with The Weather Channel's logo and advertisements.
The Weather Channel is headquartered in the Cumberland/Galleria area, immediately northwest of Atlanta, overlooking the "Cobb Cloverleaf" interchange from a high-rise in the Interstate North complex. TWC's sister channel in Canada is The Weather Network in English and MétéoMédia in French, which use similar technology that is currently in use in the USA. TWC also runs websites in Brazil (Canal do Tempo), the United Kingdom (Weather Channel), France (Météo 123) and Germany (Wetter 123). Apart from its stake in The Weather Network/MétéoMédia, TWC only runs their US channel, although it does air a forecast for international locations.
A definitive history of the network, The Weather Channel: The Improbable Rise of a Media Phenomenon, by Frank Batten and Jeffrey L. Cruikshank, was published by Harvard Business Press in May 2002, on TWC's 20th anniversary.
On July 6, 2008, NBC Universal, Bain Capital and Blackstone Group agreed to purchase The Weather Channel from Landmark Communications. Currently, NBC Universal owns NBC Weather Plus, a rival service carried by and featuring content from its local affiliates; that service announced its discontinuation three months later. Whether or not The Weather Channel will replace NBC Weather Plus on the approximately 90 digital affiliates that carried NBC's service has yet to be announced.
The Local on the 8s (also known as the "Local Forecast" or "LOT8s") is the part of TWC's programming where viewers see the current conditions and local forecast for their respective area at times ending in "8" (e.g., 9:18).
Before this was implemented, the local forecast was seen about 8 times an hour at various times, depending on the time of day (more in the morning, less at night). The concept of Local on the 8s debuted in 1996, although it was initially implemented in mid-1995. TWC's Local on the 8s has confused some New York metro viewers and listeners into thinking it is owned by CBS Corporation, because WCBS-TV and WCBS AM have a similar slogan for TV and radio broadcasts called "traffic and weather on the 8s".
As of 2006, the majority of cable companies use the IntelliStar (the network's latest STAR system), which is capable of generating graphics for Weatherscan. IntelliStar cable viewers can see current weather conditions for their location and surrounding areas, weather forecasts, doppler radars of the region, almanacs (tidal information for most coastal locations), air quality conditions, and in larger media markets, traffic conditions supplied by Traffic Pulse (which in turn gathers such information in real time from various intelligent transportation systems operated by the department of transportation in various U.S. states). Some viewers also see forecasts for popular vacation destinations that are within "weekend getaway" driving distance. The IntelliStar supersedes and coexists with the various computer models introduced by the Weather Channel. The first three WeatherStar versions were discontinued. The Weather Star Jr. uses the text mode common to the older machines but with the typeface of the WeatherStar 4000. The 4000 produces graphical local forecasts (the first model to do so), but has largely disappeared from both large and small markets; the 4000 also was the first model to have detailed, modernized radar. The XL, introduced in 1999, was a major leap forward at its launch in terms of its capabilities and was the first system adapted to the Weatherscan service.
Due to the unique circumstances involving satellite television, things are different for its viewers. During this time, the segment includes hourly forecasts for 20 major cities, three-day forecasts for 40 U.S. cities, satellite loops and composite radars of the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Northwest, and Southwest, respectively. At :18 and :48 after the hour, the Northwest and Southwest satellite/radars are replaced by one showing the entire West.
DirecTV viewers do see an IntelliStar-generated "lower third" graphic at all times except during television commercials. This cycles through current conditions (sky and temperature only) and today or next-day forecasts for major U.S. cities, as well as major airport delays. As of November 8, 2006, Dish Network viewers are now able to view local weather conditions and radar on The Weather Channel on DISH HOME Channel 100, based on their billing ZIP code, along with access to weather in other cities.
It is noted that during The Weather Channel's "Storm Alert" mode, specifically when a dangerous hurricane prepares to make landfall, the number of local forecasts seen throughout the hour is reduced from six times to four - :18 past the hour, :28 past the hour, :48 past the hour, :58 past the hour.
Other artists that can be heard during this segment include the Network Music stock music service, Trammell Starks (who composed several tracks specifically for The Weather Channel which are used in case of backup needs or outages), The Rippingtons, Moby, EKO, Shadowfax, Chris Camozzi, Scotty Ward, and Kent Marcum.
The Weather Channel suspends the music during local forecasts. when a hurricane approaches the United States coastal areas and airs the "Storm Alert" music during the Local on the 8s. They aired a new "2008 Storm Alert Theme" music for Hurricane Gustav.
TWC also has content partnerships with a number of local radio stations in the USA to provide local forecasts, using announcers separate from the TV service. For some affiliates, TWC actually provides a limited amount of live coverage during local severe weather (with the Georgia-based announcers connected via ISDN). Similarly, TWC also provides weather reports for a number of US newspapers, including a half-page national forecast for USA Today.
Global warming was voted the #1 in 100 Biggest Weather Moments.
On December 21, 2006, Dr. Heidi Cullen reacted to this by posting "Junk Controversy not Junk Science" in a blog on The Weather Channel's web site. In her blog, Dr. Cullen reacted by stating:
While the anthropogenic view of global warming is aligned with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the position of decertifying or censuring dissenting meteorologists was perceived as a call to marginalize or silence opposing opinions. Cullen's position was derided by a large portion of her blog's responders as politically motivated. Responders included AMS meteorologists who also attacked her position, in particular James Spann a TV meteorologist in Alabama who also runs a weather/climate blog on his site and disagreed with Dr. Cullen's position. In a follow up blog entry "A Very Political Climate", Dr. Cullen and The Weather Channel denied any political motivation.
Throughout the final months of 2007 to the early months of 2008, various cable companies had started to add The Weather Channel HD to their cable lineups, including the Boston, MA, Austin, TX, San Antonio, TX, and Baton Rouge, LA markets. The Weather Channel in High Definition was added to DISH Network systems on May 13, 2008. Recently, Comcast began adding the channel in some select markets like Chicago, IL. Time Warner Cable and Cablevision, both of which serve New York Metropolitan Area have also recently picked up the HD channel on late July 2008, The Standard Definition channel remains on many channel lineups for cable suscribers for more localized forecasts during "Local On The 8s", as the WeatherStar and IntelliStar feeds are not yet available on the HD channel.
The very first live broadcast of The Weather Channel in high definition came on June 2, 2008 in a new studio facility built next to the current one. Dubbed the "Studio of the Future", it is powered by Cisco Systems technology that is entirely eco-friendly, echoing its commitment to the environment via the Forecast Earth initiative. The HD re-launch was completed in Mid August 2008. Currently, TWC's entire programming schedule is broadcast in HD with the exception of long-form programs It Could Happen Tomorrow and Full Force Nature.