Last night (Monday, January 13 at 11:00pm CST), the carriage contract between DIRECTV and The Weather Channel (a.k.a. "TWC" - Facebook, Twitter, Google+) expired without a new contract in place and DIRECTV promptly replaced TWC with WeatherNation (Facebook, Twitter, Google+), a new-ish broadcast weather service that identifies itself as "delivering 24/7 coverage of current weather events" and "real weather - pure and simple."
Because weather is an everyday topic of conversation and TWC is the 800 lb gorilla in front of the green screen (no, I'm not referring to any on-air talent), opinions and discussion are aplenty. We won't go into the behind-the-scenes, or in-front-of-the-camera, verbal sparring that is taking place, particularly on TWC's end (which honestly is making TWC look petty and unprofessional, with scare tactics that approach a TORCON of 10). What we did want to know was how YOU feel about it. It's one thing for a bunch of weather geeks to throw their opinions around, but we're in the minority. What's more important is what the general public perceives of the decision and, maybe more interestingly, what their perception of TWC is.
So we took an anonymous survey! And we have results! First, a caveat: the survey questions were written by us to be as unbiased as possible, but the survey link was only distributed on MWN Facebook and Twitter feeds. Since we have some very smart followers who tend to be more weather savvy than the average Joe, the responses likely lean a little more towards what the "above average consumer of weather information" might think. It's also worth noting that nearly two-thirds of those who responded to the survey are DirecTV customers, so they are directly affected.
Here are our survey results, based on 70 responses received by 2:30pm Tuesday (percentages may not total 100% due to rounding):
1. What do you think of the move to drop TWC from DirecTV's lineup?
A. I support DirecTV in dropping TWC: 42%
B. I support TWC. DirecTV needs to get them back on ASAP: 22%
C. It doesn't really matter to me: 36%
2. Overall, what do you think of TWC's current broadcast programming (not web or social media presence)?
A. It's great! I wouldn't change a thing: 7%
B. Decent, but I would make changes if I could: 16%
C. Mediocre. Not nearly what I would like to see: 52%
D. Poor. Nothing they broadcast is worth watching: 25%
3. How often do you watch TWC?
A. Routinely - daily or several times a day: 14%
B. Somewhat regularly (every few days at least): 13%
C. Rarely, and mainly during severe and high-impact weather events: 50%
D. Not at all: 23%
4. How often do you use TWC's online offerings (web, apps, social media)?
A. Multiple times a day: 9%
B. About once a day: 9%
C. A few times a week: 19%
D. Less than once a week: 29%
E. Never: 35%
5. Do you watch TWC or use their online offerings during severe weather events *locally*?
A. Yes, they provide excellent local severe weather coverage: 6%
B. Occasionally, but I tend to rely more on other sources for local severe weather info: 37%
C. No, I use other sources where severe weather affects me personally: 57%
6. Did you lose access to TWC with the decision by DirecTV last night?
A. Yes, and I'm considering changing providers: 7%
B. Yes, but I won't change providers: 58%
C. No: 35%
It's interesting to note that (in our informal survey), the majority of people do not use TWC when severe weather affects them personally, and nearly everyone else may watch TWC but rely more on local sources. We believe that this has a lot to do with the availability of local information via multiple local broadcast stations and other internet-based sources like MWN. (By the way, we agree that local is best when wanting the best possible forecast or warning information.)
Also of note is that nearly 3 in 4 respondents "rarely" or "never" watch TWC, which can be explained by question 2, which indicates that the same 3 in 4 find the programming "mediocre" or "poor." More surprising to us is that only 1 in 3 use TWC's online offerings (which we think more highly of than their broadcast) more than once a week. Finally, with 45 respondents directly affected by DirecTV's decision, only 5 would consider changing providers due to this decision. Sounds like DirecTV knew what they were doing when they decided to pay hard ball!
The comments on the survey, as well as those we received on Facebook and Twitter are also very telling. People are simply tired of the lack of "pure weather" from TWC that WeatherNation seems to be capitalizing on. Many comments were directed towards the increase in reality-based programming and the lack of true local weather information (especially for satellite consumers who weren't privy to true local info during "Local on the 8s"). In addition, many people negatively commented on the recent decisions by TWC to use TORCON (and other proprietary indices) and winter storm names, even describing it as egotistical, stupid, sensationalizing, and even "lacking in credibility."
To their credit, the main time people seemed to tune in was when a national weather event was unfolding (that didn't affect them directly) and they wanted a national perspective. We agree that the best programming, at least as far as we are concerned, is in this area.
Here are a sample of comments we received on Twitter, which seemed to also reflect the opinions we received in our survey:
@memphisweather1 TWC is the opposite of Twitter. Pretty good for general information but lousy for knowing what's happening this moment.
— RandyMcTigerFan (@RandyMcTigerFan) January 14, 2014
@memphisweather1 stopped watching TWC when they put reality shows on.....Graphics on Weather Nation look far superior to TWC
— 3rdandChavis (@3rdandchavis) January 14, 2014
@memphisweather1 @weatherchannel quit doing weather a while ago, just another reality channel.
— LeftWingCracker (@LeftWingCracker) January 14, 2014
@memphisweather1 @memphisjq never watch(ed) TWC and don't use their online apps - too much b/s. Local is the way to go!
— missark (@missark) January 14, 2014
@memphisweather1 I have not watched in years except for major weather events like hurricanes. And I like their hurricane coverage.
— Memphy (@bamamemphis) January 14, 2014
@memphisweather1 weatherchannel is good for WX around world, not the "severe WX real-time for local viewers" as they make it out to be
— MC (@marycatherine00) January 14, 2014
@memphisweather1 I used to watch the weather channel all the time until I discovered a local social media. I prefer Twitter feed
— Tina Brooks (@tinareeb) January 14, 2014
@memphisweather1 I'm so excited to have a real alternative to @weatherchannel!
— Alys Drake (@alysdrake) January 14, 2014
So, will TWC be back on DirecTV? I believe they will, and probably before long. (On the other hand, the CEO of TWC says it's possible they may never be back on DirecTV.) However, I also believe that they have done possibly-irreparable damage to their brand in the past 48 hours, especially when the consensus seemed to be that their programming wasn't all that great to begin with.
The true winners in this deal, by good fortune and because they didn't allow themselves to get drug into the mud on it, is WeatherNation. Some comments I have seen from those in high places at TWC about WeatherNation staff and their company philosophy honestly should require a public retraction and apology (here from TWC's CEO and here from Al Roker for example). This is not WeatherNation's fault - they simply positioned themselves to be in the right place at the right time, with the type of product that people were seeking. I don't know enough about WeatherNation to grade them or outright recommend them, but from what I have seen, they appear to be well-positioned for growth using the very basic formula that TWC started with years ago - all weather, all the time.
Thanks for your survey responses and also for mentioning us as a trusted local weather source over and over again! If you have any comments on the DirecTV/Weather Channel controversy, let us know below or hit us up on social media.
Meteorologist and Founder
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