Why Fox relies on weather fans


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Often ridiculed as a mundane topic of conversation of last resort, the weather has actually been a productive source of entertainment. Natural disasters drive blockbusters with big budgets. Solar energy fuels Lorde’s latest single. Double rainbow produced a lasting meme. But is the weather worthy of an entire streaming service?

Fox certainly thinks so. This fall, the Fox Weather network will be launched, a platform for meteorological programming around the clock, rain or shine. * So does the Weather Channel, which is launching a streaming service that it hopes will have 30 million subscribers by 2026 – far from it Netflix has more than 200 million subscribers, but on par with smaller streamers like HBO max and Hulu. According to The New York Times, These upcoming launches have sparked bidding wars for star TV forecasters, the construction of posh new high-tech studios, and debates over the potential impact on public opinion: Fox Weather’s outlook is already worrying lots, given the network history of Climate change denial.

But the movements also make sense. As more and more severe weather events occur that endanger more lives, Fox and the Weather Channel rely on an audience to cover our skies around the clock. Keeping up with the weather has always been a pervasive and routine activity; The elements play a role in how we dress, what we do, where we travel. The accessibility and universality of weather talks can connect a community: local moderators can become celebrities themselves, while photos of thunderstorms and first snow populate Instagram feeds and are presented by home broadcasters. For viewers who normally only look for daily ups and downs, it only takes a deviation from the norm – such as when a record-breaking heatwave breaks in or forest fires create an orange sky – to take the plunge to an obsessive analysis of pressure systems and dew points .

Nobody understands why the weather is always on our radar better than the weather services, who have built a robust online community of Facebook groups, fan pages and forums. Some enthusiasts, like 24-year-old climate blogger Kelsie Nelson, have turned their childhood obsession into meteorology degrees. “People to like the Weather Channel, ”she insisted on the phone, laughing. However, she admitted that she was a little baffled by the idea of ​​multiple streaming services competing for her attention: “I’m not one hundred percent sure how many people would subscribe to it.”

Still, for Nelson, weather programming is a necessity that deserves a larger audience. As a child, she had feared “many weather events” – thunderstorms and natural disasters that she only stopped dreading when she tuned in to the Weather Channel after school. She would watch Storm storieswho have favourited the series about remarkable, well, storms. In college, she followed the broadcaster’s coverage and used her own radar to corroborate the experts’ findings. The day DirecTV put the Weather Channel back in its line-up in 2014 after removing it earlier this year was “one of the happiest days ever,” she told me.

Charlie Phillips, a 28-year-old meteorologist and founder of WeatherTogether, a network of blogs devoted to climate reporting, told me he started watching the Weather Channel “religiously” after experiencing a downpour in his childhood. “I saw this huge thunderstorm and it just captivated me,” he said. From there he would always watch the segments “Local on the 8s” that had updates from the neighborhood and keep up with his favorite meteorologists. (He preferred those who were more into “scientific, geeky stuff,” he added.)

This curiosity about natural phenomena will be crucial for the streaming services to come; the possibility of the spectacle is part of the appeal of watching the sky. “Some weather is admittedly boring,” said Phillips. “But what if you see a thunderstorm, or strong winds and heavy rain, or a surprising blizzard? Something like that is quite extraordinary. “

In other words, there’s an adrenaline rush to watching breathtaking reports, in other words – “the same way you break news,” Phillips explained, except that it’s footage of “the guy with his umbrella against these howling winds “and a reverence for this does not come with typical headlines. The weather is exerted by a somewhat predictable but ultimately uncontrollable force, and no Hollywood disaster film can fully reproduce the effects, these forces that can captivate, shock, or even humiliate.

“You see people who are trapped in floods, hurricanes, storm surges … and you just notice how” small People are and how fragile Life is, ”said Nelson. “You become much more grateful for what you have because you know it can be taken away from you at any moment.” In fact, extreme weather events take a human toll, especially for vulnerable parts of the country and for others exhausted climate reporters that cover such turbulence. As the frequency of these events increases, weather reporting becomes more and more necessary – and it becomes more and more annoying to watch.

With Nelson’s words in mind, I turned the Weather Channel back on for the first time in years. Coverage focused on tracking tropical storm Elsa that swept up the east coast, and I watched a meteorologist earnestly track the trail, scribbling circles on a map to point out vulnerable locations where tornadoes could occur. “Not a densely populated area,” he said as he drew another target with a flick of his wrist, “but a concern nonetheless.” The segment is then cut into a live feed of a beach. “Boy, these waves are really starting to rise,” said the anchor. “More Storms, More rain. Not what you want to hear. ”The footage looked apocalyptic – strong winds, gray skies, no one in sight. The scene was dark. The anchor looked grim. I felt grim. But I also found it difficult to look away.


* This story previously misrepresented that Fox announced its new weather channel this week. In fact, the announcement was made last December.

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About Mike Crayton

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