Weather Channel Aims Younger

9/10/2006 11:00 PM Eastern

The Weather Channel’s fall programming forecast will feature a revamped primetime lineup that will include more talking heads and fewer charts.

In an effort to draw in new and potentially younger viewers, the 90 million-subscriber network will launch over the next month a nightly news show and an original series focusing on climate change.

But TWC Cos. president Deborah Wilson said the new programming initiatives will not move the network away from its primary task of forecasting the weather.

The network will move two of its more prominent meteorologists -- Stephanie Abrams and Mike Bettes -- from the weather map to the couch when it launches Beyond the Forecast Sept. 25. The one-hour series, which will air daily at 8 p.m., will cover topical stories and go behind the scenes of high-profile weather events, according to senior vice president of programming Terry Connelly.

The show will feature remote reports -- the initial show will feature Bettes in New Orleans covering the first National Football League game from the Louisiana Superdome, one year after the stadium was damaged by Hurricane Katrina -- as well as opportunities for viewers to interact with the hosts via e-mail and call-ins.

Connelly said the more casual format correlates with TWC’s desire to not only predict weather, but also to provide greater insight and information in the aftermath of such events.

Similarly, The Climate Code with Dr. Heidi Cullen,debuting Oct. 1, will provide TWC with a platform to discuss the hot topic of global warming and climactic changes. The show will feature expertise, opinions and perspectives from policymakers and celebrities such as Ted Turner, who are both knowledgeable and passionate about the changes affecting our planet.

Connelly said the series -- complemented by a companion broadband-video Web site dubbed One Degree -- will provide information about global warming that network viewers have requested.

The network also hopes the show will further endear the channel to younger viewers, who tend to be more environmentally conscious.

With a primetime median viewing age of 52, Connelly said, TWC already skews the youngest among cable news services. For instance, both Fox News Channel and CNN have a median viewing age of over 65, according to an analysis of Nielsen Media Research data by media agency MAGNA Global USA.

Going forward, the network is planning several other original series for next year, including Epic Conditions, a five-episode show that will focus on the optimal weather conditions for extreme sports like surfing, skiing and whitewater rafting.

And next April, TWC will premiere 100 Biggest Weather Moments, a five-part series examining major climate developments from the launch of the first weather satellite to the invention of air conditioning and windshield wipers.

For more on TWC’s fall programming, please see R. Thomas Umstead’s story on page 28 of Monday’s issue of Multichannel News.

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