Big 'Moments’ In Forecast

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A virtual island and messages supporting a post-Hurricane Katrina home-rebuilding effort are among the marketing strategies behind The Weather Channel’s upcoming 100 Biggest Weather Moments.

The show, which follows a format much like that of VH1’s successful compilation shows, is the biggest documentary in Weather history, according to executives. Some moments are obvious: Executives note that Hurricane Katrina and the D-Day invasion will be among the Top 10. But the rest of the list is the work of more than 120 meteorologists.

The events were selected for their impact on technology, geopolitics, climate, destructiveness and even pop culture. Personalities appearing in the program include host Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Garner, Danica Patrick, Garth Brooks, Bill Cosby and environmental activist Laurie David, in addition to The Weather Channel’s on-air meteorologists.

To generate buzz for the five-part miniseries debuting April 15, the channel will play in a new space: virtual online gaming. The Weather Channel has created a “weather island” with the virtual world Second Life. That site (http://secondlife.com) has been in operation since 2003, operating as a 3-D world built and owned by its “residents”. As of last week, the site had 5.2 million residents.

TWC’s “island” won’t be the only such destination; site statistics indicate residents have created 4,463 of them. At Weather Island, residents can preview clips of the miniseries.

Cindy Jones, vice president of consumer and ad-sales marketing, said The Weather Channel is testing the effectiveness of advertising in such online communities, adding sites like Second Life “could be the next phenomenon.”

“This is an opportunity to get in early and become an established leader in that environment,” she said.

The channel has also built a public-relations campaign tying the show and its host to Musician’s Village. A charity supported by Connick and fellow musician Branford Marsalis, Musician’s Village works with Habitat for Humanity to build homes for New Orleans blues and jazz musicians and their families left homeless by Hurricane Katrina.

The channel is running public-service announcements about the charity and The Weather Channel donated $75,000, the price of construction of one home, to Musician’s Village.

TV Guide and its cable channel will also partner with The Weather Channel to promote the miniseries. TV Guide Channel will feature interviews with miniseries participants as part of its Watch This and 411 shows, while the magazine will feature in-grid placements of TWC’s logo and its Web site will host lead banner ads touting the show.

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