And if you're a part of the Time Warner or Walt Disney Co. stable of cable channels, for instance, then you're in an enviable negotiating position vis-a-vis the cable operators, who can't afford to not have an ESPN as a part of their offerings. But for those networks that don't operate with the benefits of vertical integration, their subscriber fees are being squeezed.
One of those networks is The Weather Channel, which, despite its cult following as a specialized provider of weather information and forecasts to nearly 90 million homes, must increasingly rely on its ad revenue from TV and its Web site as a stand-alone channel.
To that end, the network, owned by privately held Landmark Communications, is stepping up its efforts to deliver advertisers more innovative deals and diverse, sophisticated programming that offer greater value and fresh branding opportunities, as it's doing with fellow Atlanta-based company Home Depot.
The Weather Channel has joined forces with Home Depot in developing an early-morning weekend series called the "The Home Depot Project of the Month." The show is actually a series of vignettes that air one per hour between 7 a.m. and 12 p.m. on Saturday mornings. According to Lyn Andrews, president of The Weather Channel's Media Solutions group, the timing is perfect: "People tend to look at what's happening with the weather before they go out and become weekend project warriors."
The vignettes are introduced by an on-camera meteorologist and are hosted by Danny Lipford, a home-improvement expert and remodeling contractor who oversees a crew of workers wearing bright orange Home Depot smocks while demonstrating products that can be bought at the mega-hardware store. Home Depot is also a presenting sponsor of the channel's "Storm Week" and "Project Safe Side," a series of weather alerts aired during severe weather conditions.
"Home Depot wants people to know that if you need to board up your house, or if you need to repair your roof if you are in the path of a tornado, they are there as a resource," said Andrews. The partnership with the channel is also intended to push the store's new tagline: "You can do it. We can help."
The "Project of the Month" segments, meanwhile, will be programmed according to season. And as early as February 2004, the channel hopes to program specifically according to local weather conditions by using the channel's Intellestar technology, a set-top device that will allow the channel to deliver different programs and commercials to different parts of the country.
Andrews said the Home Depot integrated package is based on a significant media buy. She would not disclose the terms of the deal.
The Home Depot package, however, does not include an Internet presence for the marketer on the very popular Weather.com site. The channel has been doing package deals, however, that do leverage the Web for marketers, such as Mosquito Magnet.
Created by American Biophysics Corp. in North Kingston, Rhode Island, the magnet is a product that, according to its own Web site, "mimics a human by emitting a plume of carbon dioxide, heat and moisture, and a secondary attractant, octenol. This precise combination is irresistible to female mosquitoes (the ones that bite)…As the mosquito approaches hoping for a human, it is quietly vacuumed into a net where it dehydrates and dies."
%%PULLQUOTE_RIGHT%% "You go on the Weather Channel and find out that the weather is right for mosquito breeding and they'll be exposed to a Mosquito Magnet message," said Paul Iaffaldano, chief revenue officer of Weather.com. "And they can also go online and learn what they can do about it. And all this is sponsored by Mosquito Magnet."
Mosquito Magnet has just renewed its deal with the channel for its second year. The terms were not disclosed.
Ford Motor Co. is another marquee brand that has partnered with the network in a more visible manner. The automaker signed on as exclusive sponsor of "The Weather Channel Road Crew," live two-minute segments that highlight how weather impacts communal outdoor events like Ozzfest or a University of Tennessee football game. Ford's trucks, including the new 2004 F-150, were integrated as host Kelsa Kinsly was pictured in and around the vehicles.
All of these new deals are being executed none too soon, considering that the Weather Channel may be facing new competition at some point if NBC makes good on its idea of creating its own 24-hour weather channel. The Peacock network has floated the idea as a means for its local affiliates to fill programming needs as broadcasters continue to move towards digital conversion.