Drive audience engagement with streaming weather
Streaming weather channels offer a significant opportunity for local TV stations to expand and monetize their audiences. Nielsen’s The Gauge report found that almost 38% of all TV viewing is now on streaming platforms. For local TV stations and even networks, weather continues to be a driving force for viewers and engagement, but how must OTT content differ from what’s on a linear newscast?
Ethan Dreilinger, Client Solutions Engineer at The Weather Company, has some answers based on research and early experiences of clients that have pioneered in this space. This interview, which has been edited for brevity, originally took place at TVNewsCheck’s TV2025: Monetizing the Future conference, where Publisher Kathy Haley interviewed Dreilinger.
Haley: How do TV stations stack up against their competition in streaming weather programming?
Dreilinger: Broadcasters have such a built-in advantage in this space because they’re in the market. They’ve built brands in these markets and they have teams working locally. Apple has a great integration with Dark Sky, but they can’t tell you what’s important in your market.
Haley: How important is it for stations to create content specifically for streaming?
Dreilinger: It’s important to make content tailored to streaming and for all of the other platforms that you’re involved in. The Weather Company conducted a 600-person focus group and found that a majority want to see more experiential content and content that’s relevant to them. They want to see health-related weather programming, for example, and 55% are very interested in weather forecasts related to outdoor activities. Another 49% are interested in a weather planner.
You can easily take the data that your meteorologists are using every single day on air and tailor it to address individual niche needs within your market.
The Weather Company has tools and automation that make it simple to do. Your goal is around engagement now. When I started in this business, it was about tune-in. That’s not the goal anymore. It’s engagement. Can you get me to come back tomorrow? And that’s what you have to think about.
Haley: Content creators are maxed out. How can broadcasters streamline the workflow?
Dreilinger: I’ve been in a lot of television newsrooms. I’ve met with a lot of corporate overseers for different broadcast groups. The one thing I have not heard anybody say in the last nine months is ‘we’re going to hire 500 people to do this’. It’s the people that are sitting in the room that are going to have to figure out a way to make it happen. The tools we’ve developed in the last couple of years, adding automation and addressing storytelling, allow teams to go from idea to video to engagement quicker.
You can spin these up and down quickly so you can address stuff that comes up in the market. During summers in New York City it’s all about street fairs. Do a street fair report. Or in winter focus on school closings.
Haley: The Weather Company offers a platform with a templated approach that helps teams back up the meteorologists by creating content really quickly.
Dreilinger: We have a product called Max Velocity that uses templates to make it easy for everybody in the newsroom to be part of that storytelling, particularly when the meteorologists are busy covering a storm. It lets you pull graphics in and build video really easily and then get that story out to the audience quickly and easily, and because its built on our Max Weather platform that the meteorologists use, it creates really well produced content.
Haley: What are your customers learning as they launch streaming weather channels or news channels with weather content?
Dreilinger: I’m aware of four station groups that are planning to launch 24/7 FAST channels in 2024. Some of them will be 24/7 weather channels, and they’ll have a 24/7 news channel standing next to it. Some of them will just be a news channel with expanded weather holes available to it. All of that is going to come from the existing teams that are there. So you’re able to leverage that technology, leverage all of the toolset that you’ve already got in your facility and create these experiences. On the video here, you see a mix of automated and templated storytelling. Again, these are really easy to create. These kinds of stories drive viewers to come back into those platforms.
Haley: What percentage of a 24/7 streaming weather channel is devoted to storytelling with these very beautiful graphics? And what percentage is devoted to a meteorologist doing a more traditional forecast or report?
Dreilinger: It’s an open canvas right now. It’s an opportunity to put something in the market, get some data and make some data driven decisions around what works, what doesn’t work and what would work better if we just made this change.
Haley: Some broadcasters are running weather on their Dot 2s. Are they having to create unique content for those also?
Dreilinger: A couple of the stations I visited last summer have started to spin up their dot twos and dot threes and some of them have 24/7 news and weather, some of them 24/7 weather, etc. And these particular stations are taking those dot twos and they’re putting them out on FAST channels and with FAST aggregators. They’re putting them on their websites, they’re putting them into their mobile apps, they’re putting them out to their tablet apps. And they’re getting all of that beachhead information and showing their advertisers what they did for their brands.
Haley: What’s the potential for generating revenue with streaming weather channels?
Dreilinger: BIA Advisory Services predicts local streaming video will add up to a $7 billion industry. And our research continues to show that weather is the original influencer. It influences what you do, what you purchase, the decisions that you make, what you wear, the activities that you do. It’s a great way for advertisers to brand in a safe environment with information that people want. And your teams are already selling weather. It’s the number one item sold in local markets. So just extend those sponsorships. You have a couple of key sponsors. Bring them into the tent and tell them, hey, listen, we’d love to have you as part of this journey with us. Here’s what we’re doing, here’s where we’re going.
Haley: Final thoughts on local weather and streaming?
Dreilinger: The focus has to be on addressing audiences where they are and driving that engagement where they are. Get out, get onto these platforms, get content on these platforms, get your messaging on these platforms, and then reduce friction. Make it easy to get the information that people are looking for. If you can start to do those things, the money will follow, the engagement will follow, and the brand loyalty will grow.
If you are interested in learning more, sign up for a demo to see how you can expand your storytelling capabilities: biz.weather.com/Max-Velocity-Demo-Request.html