Programming: The Weather Channel

August 1, 2005


The Weather Channel

(Atlanta, U.S.)


Roughly split between the genders,

25 to 54 range, middle income


88.9 million homes in the U.S.

On-air hours

24 hours a day


Janet Johnson,

VP of long-form programming


In addition to its bread-and-butter task of providing real-time weather data, Johnson says the channel’s viewers can expect to find ‘everything related to weather that helps them prepare for their lives. We are all things weather for viewers.’ The cablecaster aims to dispense take-away knowledge – for example, what causes tsunamis – and Johnson says the brand will expand moving forward. Its new tag line is ‘Bringing weather to life.’

Need It

In order to better engage viewers, The Weather Channel is broadening its program offerings. ‘We don’t want to just be a network viewers turn to for two minutes to get their data,’ says VP of long-form programming Janet Johnson. ‘They can get that on their PDA, their cell phone, anything.’ While its best-known strands are ‘Storm Stories’ (for which roughly 60% of the shows have been commissioned) and ‘Forecast Earth’ (for which about 30% of the programs have been acquired), Johnson is open to different types of programming, including ‘lighter fare,’ such as lifestyle and travel formats with strong weather implications.

Programs pitched can be explanatory, but they also ‘have to be entertaining and have good storytelling, which wins out every time.’ For example, a show on watersheds was featured in the climate and earth sciences strand, ‘Forecast Earth.’ Although Johnson admits the account of protecting a community’s water supply ‘doesn’t sound sexy,’ the storytelling in After the Storm was strong enough to pull in an average of 1.1 million homes on a Saturday afternoon in January.

Also, since the channel isn’t locked into a 30-minute model, Johnson welcomes pitches for shorter-than-standard formats.

Don’t Need It

With her current focus on primetime programming, Johnson is not interested in knockoffs of existing formats – for example, something like Who Wants to be a Meteorologist. ‘I get that a lot, or some variation of it,’ reveals Johnson. ‘While something like that might be suitable for daytime or early evening, it simply wouldn’t work during primetime.’

Johnson is also flooded with pitches for weather makeover shows. Perplexed by the concept? It’s the type of show where a team would come in to redo a home destroyed by a natural disaster. ‘This type of show does seem like a natural fit for us,’ explains Johnson. ‘But audiences are getting their fill of those shows from networks that frankly have deeper pockets than we do at this time.’

And while Johnson is clearly mindful that the weather can have disastrous consequences, she notes that she doesn’t only want to be offered ‘doom and gloom’ programs.

What’s On Now

Starting in January, The Weather Channel plans to add an additional hour in primetime. One offering set to air is Full Force Nature, a half-hour clip show by Sherman Oaks, California’s GRB Entertainment. ‘Imagine weather on steroids,’ says Johnson of the high adrenaline program that will feature avalanches, mudslides and tornados. Another 30-minute show, this one by New York-based Atlas Media, takes historic weather events and re-imagines them with alternate paths. For example, what if hurricanes that struck Florida had torn through New Orleans instead? ‘They are not fantastical assumptions,’ pledges Johnson of the scenarios in the show, which is called It Could Happen Tomorrow.

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.