Dispute Reveals Storm Clouds For TV

Storm_cloudsRight now, because of a dispute about fees, one of the original stalwarts and selling points of “pay TV” is not on TV for customers of DirecTV. It’s symbolic of a fight for relevance by some traditional media outlets, even those just 30 years old.

The Weather Channel was a novel concept for much of its existence, providing a weather forecast for the nation and for your area, 24 hours a day. But, today, it is fighting for its existence, at least on DirecTV. Its PR position is that it’s a service essential to safety. The Channel went so far as to produce its own attempt at “viral video” to spread its message, using a tried-and-true tactic of putting a nonprofit group out in front. But, like too much “campaign communication” it is hyperbolic and struggles to be credible. You can watch it here, before weeping for the PR profession.

There’s no question that weather is important in today’s media environment. Just look at any social media news feed and you’ll see that first-hand. But how important is The Weather Channel? I asked DirecTV customers, in the coveted 25-54 demographic, many of whom grew up with cable TV, and asked them if they miss the Channel and why or why not. Here are representative responses:

-“I love and use their app several times a day but I don’t remember the last time I turned on the channel.”
-“I would miss the channel if I could rely on them to be doing weather anytime I turned them on.”
-“I usually watch local weather news or check my weather app.”
-“5 years ago, I would have been upset…”
-“I have never once flipped to The Weather Channel.”
-“Actually had no idea it was gone.”
-“I don’t miss TWC. For weather info, I go to the weather apps on my phone and broadcast weather casters.”
-“I didn’t even realize I didn’t have The Weather Channel.”
-“My trusty Weather Channel app will detect my GPS location and give me current conditions and the forecast for that spot right on my screen.”
-“I just get the local forecast from local TV stations or go to weather.com.”

Based on this unscientific sampling, which confirmed my guesses, TV, especially national TV, is a much less preferable form of weather information than it used to be. DirecTV knows this and The Weather Channel probably does too. Of course, they can bring in much, much more revenue by selling national TV commercials than they can from any space on their app or website. Much like newspapers, their customers prefer new platforms while their business model dictates they cling as long as possible to the original platform.

As communicators, we need to understand how the changes in media consumption affect both how consumers want information and the way the media business works. This is yet another example of the profound changes occurring before our eyes.