NBC may create rival to Weather Channel

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In a move that could be a blueprint for the future, NBC is creating a video version of its Intellicast online weather service for Primestar. If successful on the direct broadcast satellite service, Intellicast could be rolled out on other video platforms as a challenge to cable TV's Weather Channel.

Initially developed to be the weather component for MSNBC online, Intellicast is used by a number of NBC TV stations on their Web sites. On Primestar, it initially will not be very different from what users see online. High-resolution maps will be used, similar to what viewers see on their local TV weather broadcasts.


Key to the success of Intellicast on Primestar, said an executive familiar with the plan, is that it will be localized. A viewer, using the remote control, will be able to call up the local weather.

"That hits at one of the issues DBS carriers are always knocked about, that they can't target anything locally," the executive said.

For NBC, the plan accomplishes a number of strategic goals.

First, in a world of constrained channel capacity on cable systems, this could be a new way to create a channel; Intellicast could be added to the digital tiers cable TV operators are developing. Local affiliates also could be involved eventually.

"I think the feeling at NBC is that the Weather Channel is vulnerable to something more locally oriented," said the executive familiar with the Intellicast plans.

A Weather Channel executive said he had heard NBC might be sighting the network, but added: "We're confident our product is superior, and our name gives us a huge advantage."


Another benefit for NBC would be that Intellicast content is inexpensive to produce.

If successful, it is a way for NBC to roll out content developed for the Web to the much broader TV universe. The ad dollars would be far greater than they are in the online world now.

Network insiders said NBC's Intellicast strategy has been developed by Tom Rogers, exec VP of NBC and president of NBC Cable and business development. Mr. Rogers declined comment.

Primestar, owned by five cable operators and NBC parent General Electric Co., also declined comment.

Copyright February 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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