Celebrity meteorologists Sam Champion and Jim Cantore took the stage in front of a few hundred advertising executives in New York today, pitching a new slate of Weather Company programming meant to draw ad dollars.
The new programming, set to debut in the coming months, includes a new reality-style TV series, several other entertainment shows, four new "Video Minutes" web series and several "Weather Films" documentaries on topics such as homelessness, immigration and climate change.
But the star of the event -- which Weather called an "allfront" in an effort to span TV's upfront pitches and the newer digital NewFronts -- was a preview of a dramatic redesign coming to Weather's apps and website.
The new design, which the company says is coming soon, appears to be a major improvement over Weather's current offering -- both aesthetically and from a user experience standpoint. Within the new app, for instance, users will be able to scroll down for hourly and 10 day forecasts instead of poking at the current, clunky tabbed layout. The app's home screen will also become more user-friendly, placing the important information in a translucent circle in the center, laid over a visual background.
That background image will be up for grabs for advertisers, giving them the ability to own the home screen experience. In the preview, a Chrysler car driving across the screen was impossible to miss.
Weather declined to provide images of the new app afterward, telling Ad Age it was not yet ready to reveal the new design to the public.
The design translates to web as well. In the presentation, Chrysler took over nearly the entire Weather homepage, with the weather information placed in the left hand corner. The cube layout of today's Weather.com, with teasers for news and videos, is deemphasized in favor of what visitors generally visit the site to see -- the forecast.
These ads can sync with Weather's data, which the company says can help predict what products will sell better given the conditions.
Elements of the new digital design will make it onto TV, but the draw there will be the new programming and Mr. Champion's morning show, called "AMHQ," which will run from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. on weekdays starting March 17.
Mr. Champion, sporting a dark suit and a pair of high-top sneakers, said his show will touch not only on weather but help viewers "forecast the day ahead." To that end, it will feature news, business, lifestyle, sports, traffic, travel and entertainment coverage, he said.
The other new programs on the schedule include "Catching Hell," a 10-episode series following professional spearfishers in the Gulf of Mexico, and "Tornado Alley," an 8-episode series telling stories of the devastation from tornadoes. The network has also renewed shows like "Coast Guard Alaska" and "Prospectors."
Diversifying programming beyond live weather reports is a bit risky for Weather, which was dropped earlier this year by DirecTV, which blamed the appearance of reality programming on the network's schedule. "The Weather Channel is so used to dramatizing the weather, they may have lost all sense of reality," a DirecTV spokesman told Ad Age at the time. Customers, he said, "do not want to be fed a steady diet of 40 percent reality TV programming that preempts hard weather news."