Fox News enters a new battlefield in cable weather

Cable news wars? What about real-time news wars?

Fox News Media is venturing into the weather news industry with the launch of Fox Weather this week, an effort to beef up its streaming services and garner a wider audience outside of politics and sports.

With its big bet on the weather, Fox is entering a crowded field of weather news providers, where it will compete on a daily basis with smartphone apps, local TV broadcasts, and well-known brands like The Weather Channel and Accuweather.

The Fox weather push comes as industry experts say the audience for weather news is expected to grow in the coming years as weather and weather-related events impact physical, financial, and emotional well-being further. people around the world every year.

“I would be very disappointed if [Rupert Murdoch] It didn’t go into this space, because it’s a very important space, ”Weather Channel owner and president Byron Allen said in an interview with The Hill this week. “I think there is more than enough room in this particular space … to have multiple players. What is happening now is that people are beginning to connect the dots and understand what climate change and global warming really mean. “

The brainchild of Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott, Fox Weather was launched after 10 months of planning and strategizing by the company’s top brass and the hiring of Sharri Berg, former director of news operations. and Fox Television Stations operations, to serve as the platform’s first president.

When it first launched on Monday, Fox Weather introduced viewers to state-of-the-art storm tracking and radar equipment that the New York City-based team will use to provide content for the Fox Weather app and others. . platforms. The broadcast channel will also have an integrated website and will show local, regional and national weather, as well as live programming gleaned from meteorologists on many local Fox-owned stations across the country.

“The entire team has worked meticulously to develop a fresh and innovative approach to forecasting with tools like 3D radar and ‘FutureView’ to serve the loyal audience we have cultivated over the past 25 years,” Scott said in a memo to the employees. this week.

Fox has hired more than 100 employees, including dozens of meteorologists, for its national meteorological team and has invested $ 10 million in the company, injecting a large dose of capital into the weather news business by one of the players. of the world’s largest corporate media. world.

Competition from Fox Weather in the streaming space is likely to be fierce, with AccuWeather reaching approximately 1.5 billion people worldwide each day on its various platforms, during the summer with the launch of AccuWeather NOW and The Weather. Channel planning to launch its own subscription. -Streaming service based on before the end of the year.

“It’s another data point that speaks to the importance of weather and climate information to people around the world,” said Jonathan Porter, senior vice president of weather content and forecasting operations at AccuWeather. “[Fox’s push] It certainly reflects what we see when it comes to increasing demand for our services in all the consumer phase products that we offer and also in the business-to-business products that we offer ”.

Fox Weather will have to show that it can offset a wide range of unique capabilities that AccuWeather has developed since its founding nearly 60 years ago, Porter said.

Other major cable news companies have attempted to launch weather-specific platforms in recent years with limited success.

In 2008, NBC Universal closed its digital weather service, “NBC Weather Plus” after just four years after the company’s purchase of a minority stake in The Weather Channel, TVWeek reported.

“It is a very difficult business climate these days. You can’t ignore those realities, ”NBC News president Steve Capus said at the time. “Even if the Weather Channel acquisition had not gone through, this was a challenging business. We were going to have to deal with that at some point. ”

Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst at the Poynter Institute, noted that Fox is betting that its big bet on the weather, a staple of local media broadcasts across the country, will help it attract viewers from other networks and your affiliates as you aim to stand out amidst the crowded digital media landscape.

“There are a lot of people, particularly in a broadcast context, that the most important thing they want is weather news,” Edmonds said. “Them [Fox] We certainly have the resources, but I think it can be quite an uphill climb to separate people from something that they are quite satisfied with. ”

Berg said in a recent interview that Fox’s top leaders, prior to the launch of their new weather platform, conducted a “very intense consumer research project,” which revealed ways that Fox Weather could differentiate itself from the onslaught of meteorological information permeating the public sphere. .

“We searched the market and saw an opportunity that would create a complete place to get all of your weather coverage,” Berg said.

When it comes to brand loyalty, the Weather Channel’s Allen said he wouldn’t be surprised to see “a lot of people” who regularly watch Fox News for news and opinion content turn to the new real-time weather service. of the company.

“They are really good at what they do,” Allen said. “And there is a lot of room to do more than what we are all doing.”

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