Sunday, January 13, 2008

I may buy The Weather Channel

Television programming is considerably different when compared to when I was a boy.

Back then, there was only ABC, CBS, NBC, and the public broadcasting station. If a person had said back then that people would some day have access to hundreds of channels like we do now, that person would have been greeted with a lot of skepticism.

Cable television in my childhood consisted only of the television stations in Nashville, Chattanooga, and Huntsville, Ala.

Since then, obviously, everything has changed. Just about every type of programming imaginable is only a click of the remote away.

While that can be both good and bad, there can be no debate that television programming gives us instant access to information that was not easily available in the past.

For example, The Weather Channel is a staple of just about every household I know.

If I am at a friend's house watching football all afternoon, we usually take a few trips around the dial to see what else is on. And during those trips, we usually stop at The Weather Channel to see what they are talking about.

It doesn't matter if it is a beautiful, sunny day. We will take the time to check out the forecast and see the local radar. It is almost as if it has been encoded in our DNA that we must take a peek at that channel more than once in an afternoon.

I do the same thing at home. During an evening of television watching, I usually stop at The Weather Channel several times even if they are talking about something I saw them discuss an hour ago.

I am at a loss to explain why I do that, but we all do things that we can't explain.

Before you scoff at me, it is important to note that I must not be the only person who does this. Because of the way this channel draws in viewers like a moth to a flame, the channel has become extremely valuable.

The Reuters news agency recently reported that The Weather Channel’s privately held parent company is putting it up for sale.

The asking price? $5 billion. That's right. That is billion with a 'b.'

Media properties rarely get sold, and because of this, they are very valuable when they hit the market, according to the Reuters story. The story stated one of the reasons the channel has value is because of the way it deals with time-sensitive weather coverage.

After all, if a person fears there is violent weather in the area, he needs information now, and what better resource than a channel that is solely dedicated to weather. Am I the only one who has watched the channel when a hurricane is making landfall just to see if meteorologist Jim Cantore is getting smacked around by the winds?

The channel is able to give blow by blow status reports when big weather events are happening.

Because of this time-sensitive value, viewers are less likely to record the channel's shows and fast forward through all the commercials when they watch it. As you might imagine, this makes the channel very popular with advertisers.

However, none of this really explains why I have such a fixation with the channel. I just checked the current conditions, and it is partly cloudy with a temperature of 52 degrees.

I checked it about an hour ago, and it was the same. And it probably will be the same when I check it before I go to bed.

Maybe this has more to do with the general blandness of television programming than anything else. Other than when there is a major weather threat, The Weather Channel is pretty monotonous.

Then again, most of the rest of television programming is monotonous, too. Bruce Springsteen once sang that there is "57 channels and nothing on."

Well, the number of channels has increased, but the song remains the same. The Weather Channel is about as exciting as everything else that we watch.

Most reality shows are dull, and The Weather Channel is the ultimate reality show. It plays out every day and has a direct impact on us all.

So, I guess there are worse things on TV to watch.


Joltin' Django said...

My dad, an avid fisherman, watches the Weather Channel like I imagine the average stock broker watches CNBC or the FOX Business Channel. He always has, and I imagine he always will. (Can't tell you how many times over the past 20 years that my mom and I have rolled our eyes as Pop watches TWC like he's watching the Kennedy assassination all over again.)

That said, the Weather Channel does provide a great, great service. Such as ...

I recently read the book "F5" -- read it in two days -- which documents the two hundred-plus tornadoes that ripped through the Ohio Valley in April 1974.

I was an infant at the time of the 1974 tornadoes; thus, I do not remember the tornado that touched down, and subsequently destroyed an NES switching station, 1/4-mile from my house at 4 o'clock in the afternoon.

When my mother saw the tornado coming (my father was in Florida on a business trip at the time), she bundled me and ran to our next-door neighbor's house.

The folks at home there, a mother and three teen-aged daughters, were doing regular late-afternoon things -- with the televisions blasting some syndicated, forgettable crap -- totally oblivious to the tornado that'd touched down less than a mile away.

My mother and my next-door-neighbor-mother laid atop us kids as the tornado plowed near and over our home(s). We emerged unscathed; however, according to my mom, we didn't have electricity for 3 days thereafter. Oh, how I'm thankful that I don't remember the experience.

I'll let the Adam Smith-lovin' part of me say that the Weather Channel's sale should fetch whatever the market will bring. And ...

For those who think that said channel is over-priced, I'll simply ask this question: What price would YOU be willing to pay go back into time to warn the hundreds of familys who faced death and destruction during the 1974 tornadoes?

If the Weather Channel had been around in 1974, what would've changed? We'll never know. However, I feel safe to say that the folks who stood in backyards, stood in church, and looked out windows -- as the folks documented in the book "F5" did -- if a Weather Channel-like TV network had, again, been available.

Anonymous said...

I don't have cable anymore. I miss TWC. They have all kinds of interesting programs on there besides the forecast. Plus some really cute gals. Maybe I can get someone to tape it for me.
TWC should be free! The gummint should pay for anyone who can't afford it so everyone can get it.

Chris said...

"I recently read the book "F5" -- read it in two days -- which documents the two hundred-plus tornadoes that ripped through the Ohio Valley in April 1974."

I vividly remember the tornado outbreak of April 3, 1974. That event probably sparked my interest in tornadoes. I remember watching a TV station out of Huntsville where a guy was in a newsroom with only one light on. He was trying to report what was going on, but the report kept going in and out. It was a terryifying time.

Anonymous said...

Look out, Christina Abernathy!