Talking TV: The Weather En Español

TVNewsCheck’s Michael Depp talks with Sussy Ruiz, editor in chief of the newly-launched The Weather Channel en Español, about the streaming- and digital-only channel’s value proposition to Spanish-speaking viewers, its ambitions to widen its coverage radar further south of the border and how understanding the cultures of its target audience will be crucial to its success. A full transcript of the conversation is included.

The Weather Channel en Español launched in May in a bid to capture what owner Byron Allen sees as an underserved market of Spanish-speaking households for whom there’s little weather media in the U.S.

Sussy Ruiz, editor in chief of the new service, says early response has been strong from viewers, who’ve offered up numerous messages of gratitude.

In this Talking TV conversation, Ruiz explains the close working relationship between The Weather Channel en Español and its now 40-year-old elder sibling network, where the streaming-and-digital-only service can be found and its growth plan to serve a wider swath of Latin America.

Episode transcript below, edited for clarity.

Michael Depp: Early this May, The Weather Channel marked its 40th anniversary, and it did so in part by launching The Weather Channel en Español. The new channel is available via numerous OTT platforms and is a mobile app, and it’s also accessible on the Weather Channel’s phone app. The Weather Channel en Español is owner Byron Allen’s bid to connect with what he says is an underserved Hispanic market on streaming, especially as extreme weather ever more seriously impacts communities where Spanish is spoken as the primary and secondary household language. I’m Michael Depp, editor of TVNewsCheck, and this is Talking TV, the podcast that brings you smart conversations about the business of broadcasting. Today, that conversation is with Sussy Ruiz, editor in chief of The Weather Channel en Español. We’ll be right back to talk about its launch, its content and its ambitions.

Welcome, Sussy Ruiz, to Talking TV.


Sussy Ruiz: Thank you. Thank you so much for wanting to know about the Weather Channel en Español.

Well, I know you’re extremely busy getting this new channel off the ground, so I especially appreciate you taking the time to talk today. Sussy, how long have you been building the Weather Channel en Español?

Well, when we talk about these, I can’t actually say me, because this is a huge team effort and it’s been it’s been in the works for a long time. The very first time I was contacted was like two years ago, prior to the pandemic, way before that. I’m talking about 2019. And before that, it had already been a conversation here at The Weather Channel. It’s been a while and it’s been a careful process to think about what is it that we wanted to do and how is it that we were going to do it so that we can maintain the same credibility, the same excellence that The Weather Channel has, but in Spanish, because, as you know, our purpose is to save and protect lives.

Like I always tell everybody, we are not part of The Weather Channel. We are The Weather Channel, but in Español. So, we want to go ahead and deliver that and put that together for our Hispanic audience. It did take a long time, lots of preparation and it’s still taking time because this is in stages. So, as we launch now, we are evolving to what’s next and how are we going to prepare for the next stage.

As you’re trying to pick up a viewership and audience, what is your central value proposition for viewers?

When we go back to talking about our audience, in talking about the Hispanic community in the United States, we have to understand that our needs of Hispanics are different. And so, when we go through experiences of severe weather, hurricanes, ice storms, whatever it is that is affecting us up there, our needs are usually different than where you will see the general population and I’ll explain myself in that.

So, what happens is that a lot of us, we come from different countries of origin. We have different cultures, we have different ideas of what weather is. Sometimes we don’t even know what like a tornado is or a hurricane because we don’t experience that in in our countries, or I’ve been living here for such a small time in that specific area that when I moved to another area, I don’t understand what’s happening or what kind of services are provided.

So, what we are proposing and doing is that we are actually delivering information not only on current event weather events, but also on services, benefits, prevention. How do we prepare for something that is coming up? For example, if I don’t know what a tornado is, I probably need to know what that is and how to prepare for it before I get hit by it.

The general market is very used to having this information because it’s been done for many years. But as we speak, usually what the traditional Hispanic media does or has been doing is presenting the weather as it happens, but not necessarily preparing ahead of time or giving you all the information you need, the tools you need to be prepared.

That’s what we are doing. We are opening a rainbow of tools for people to use based on their needs wherever it is that they are. And then the other component that is that we are not just focusing on the U.S. Why? Because Hispanics live with our families. You know, our values are very important as a community. So yes, language is one thing, but family values, traditions, that’s very important as well. So, we tend to live in groups.

For example, you will see in Florida that you have a lot of Cubans because family, friends, everybody is living there. Same thing in New York. You will see a lot of Dominicans and Puerto Ricans. In Texas, you will see a lot of people from Mexico and Central America. And depends on where you go, if you go to Dallas or Houston, if you go to Austin, you will see that they come from different areas, from Central America or from Mexico. And that’s because of the way we communicate and the way we interact with each other, with our families or neighbors and friends.

Because of that, we’ll also presenting content to and from Latin America. For example, Colombia. Colombia is linked to Houston and New York. Puerto Rico, right, Puerto Rico is linked to Florida and New York. Like that, we are very mindful of the events that are happening within Latin America.

We are actually going to be transmitting in Mexico, in Dominican Republic. All of that is very important as a whole, but also in the little groups that we have. That’s why we have the streaming, but we also have the social media because we always connect through social media with our family. We have friends that when something is happening, the first thing we do as Hispanics, we go and we look it up and we share it with send it through WhatsApp, through Facebook, Twitter, through Instagram. So that’s what we’re doing.

It sounds like you have correspondents down in Central and South America, Mexico, the Caribbean, maybe?

That’s our plan at this point. Like I said, we are in different stages and yes, we’re going to go to that way. Our end goal is to be just as The Weather Channel, you know, where we are actually going to have all of that. And we do have all the resources and all the tools right now, taking step by step to build to that point.

Right now, we are the one group that has all the Hispanic meteorologists in front, or the most, in front and behind cameras working together along with an editorial team of journalists putting all of these together. Right now, we are putting all of that content together. And eventually we will have people around to report from these places.

This whole effort is about more than language. It’s about culture, it sounds like. And that’s just as important as language in getting across to your audiences. As I mentioned at the top, this is primarily an OTT channel right now. So, where can you find it?

Right now, you can find us on Local Now, YouTube TV, and there are more, more platforms that are going to be coming up because, you know, as we work, they have different release dates. We work with every one of them. But there’s many more that are coming up. And again, it is free, and you can actually access it through Local Now app right now.

Is it in the game plan to eventually find a cable address for this channel?

I don’t want to say no. It’s going to be in the plans. Definitely something that we have to look into in the future.

Format-wise, is this a very different looking product from what we see with The Weather Channel? Are you working from a totally different cloth, or will multilingual viewers essentially see a lot of programing affinities between the two channels?

I love that you ask that because that’s one of the biggest conversations that we have here at The Weather Channel. And that is because in a Hispanic household, you will have different generations who speak Spanish, who only speak Spanish, who is somebody that who is bilingual and then somebody who is Spanish but still an English speaker because they were born here. So, you have the grandmother, the mother and the daughter, right? The grandma speaks only Spanish. The daughter is bilingual and the granddaughter probably just an English-only speaking person.

And so, what’s happening is that you will have a conversation. What do we do? I tell my mom when she calls me, you know, we heard that this storm is going on. Where can I find the information? So, I tell her, you know, here’s where you can go. And I show her so that she can get the information. Most of the time, the information that she can get is in English because is not available in Spanish. So, in this case, in our case, what we’re doing is we have the option within the household for the English speaker to tell that mom go and turn on the TV because you can get it in Spanish and it’s the same quality, the same information you need in Spanish as if you have it in English at The Weather Channel.

Going back to the to the question, yes, you can expect the same type of quality and information that is useful for you to save and protect lives. And of course, we tweak it a little bit because it is geared towards our traditions, towards our culture. And so, we put things that are of interest to the Hispanic culture. Like, for example, we talk about if you have any questions, ask us what are some of those questions? We allowed our audience to ask us those questions and we in return, answer them based on what they really want to know.

How close is the channel’s relationship on the back end with The Weather Channel? In both a technology and a personnel sense, how much of a of a central nervous system do you share?

All of it. This is amazing. I’ve been, you know, around in different areas and I’ve seen companies working together, English and Spanish. But this is next level, because there’s no there’s no bureaucracy in the middle and we have all the resources that we need if we want. And so, like, if you want to use something and it’s available, we go and, we just take it and we use it and if we have an idea and we want to put it together, it is planned and executed.

This is really good because we don’t have to be fighting for equipment or for personnel. That’s amazing in terms of being able to get things done. And that’s why I’m saying we’re working on a second, third stage that, you know, we are going to be adding to our content. Yes, I’m busy, but it’s fun because we have such a big team that is actually incorporating ideas, innovating, doing so many things just for this project that you don’t feel like it’s busy. You feel like you’re in a playground, you know, like a little kid in a playground.

So, if you want to borrow Jim Cantore’s laptop, you just got to go to his desk and take it?

Oh, well, won’t take much. But just like, that you mentioning that, but yes you know our OCMs actually sit across from the TWC OCMs and what we do is we talk every day, and we say hello and, you know, what are you doing? And we walk across the hallway, and we interact. We have that kind of relationship where everybody can talk to everybody. Everybody can ask ideas from anybody.

How much content are you putting out right now? How many programming hours do you make?

So, we have 14 hours right now. It’s actually 24/7, but we have right now 14 hours where we are actually on air doing constant news reports. And then from that, we have this beautiful program that we have. It’s a live radar with the information that kicks in. And then again, we’re extending that. We’re expanding that as we move forward. But you will find content about climate change. You will find content about history, you know, going back in time and taking on different issues that happen on current events here, current events in Latin America. You have forecasts that have to do with traveling. You have forecasts that have to do with going to the beach. You have forecasts that have to do with different things. So, you have all types of a different approach to weather storytelling that you cannot find in any other place.

So, you have 14 hours now. What’s sort of the plan to ramp up? You’re going to expand, as you mentioned, geographically outside of Atlanta, where you are, and have correspondents elsewhere. Do you ultimately want to ramp up to 24 hours? And is that going to be within a year or so?

Yes. So that’s the goal. The goal is to be just there and do everything as we do in The Weather Channel, and we’re just taking it slow little by little, step by step, so we can add resources. We can incorporate resources and we’ll still maintain quality without rushing into, you know, something that may not be sustainable.

It’s not easy to launch a new channel from scratch. What have been the hardest parts of doing the job so far for you?

Well, honestly, it’s been, it is challenging because you have many units that you have to work with together. Right. Design, weather presentation, the business side of it, everything that is part of this. But again, because we have everybody invested on this is being pretty much like really good. A good ride. It’s not been very difficult. Sometimes leading with deadlines and timelines that are out of your control, that, you know, like you were asking about platforms that sometimes could be challenging, but nothing major really. We have a very good chemistry here within the team and so that helps to speed up things.

So just lastly, what kinds of early insights are you getting from your audience or about your audience, rather, from your streaming, your mobile analytics? And it sounds like also that the input that you’re soliciting from them, asking them to ask you questions on air, are there any data or trends or feedback that has surprised you at all?

Yes. Only I’m going to tell you, just within launch, we had started Conexion Con el Tiempo, which is our social media platform and only with the launch. Before the launch, we already were engaged. We had a lot of people engaging with us and asking questions. But after launch, it doubled. Every number doubled. And that’s a good sign because we’ve only been on air, what, two or three weeks? And so that can tell you the potential we have as we move forward. And just people asking about, you know, this is going to happen here in my in my area or, you know, oh, this is so cool, or I didn’t know this.

So, the feedback from people is there. They’re saying things like we needed these from a long time ago. Why didn’t you do it before? Things like that? And so that’s very rewarding because it speaks to what we thought from the very beginning, which is this is a very needed service to our underserved community. And so, we’re ready to deliver this and way more. So, yes, the response has been very positive. Great. And we hope to keep it up like that.

Well, Sussy Ruiz, you have a lot of work to do, and I don’t want to keep you from it any longer. The Weather Channel en Español is available now on OTT and mobile. Thanks, Sussy, so much for being here.

No, thank you. And remember, we are offering Conexion Con el Tiempo en Español.

There it is. Thanks to all of you for watching. See you next time.

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