Live Programming

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A screenshot of Mark Elliott during live coverage in 2021.

Live programming on The Weather Channel refers to programming blocks aired live or as-live from the Weather Channel studios or remote broadcast locations. The main focus of The Weather Channel's live programming is live weather and weather forecast information, with a secondary focus on climate issues, science and technology, and weather safety information.

As of 2020, The Weather Channel normally operates live programming about 14 hours a day per weekday with 4 or 5 different groups anchoring. During the weekend, The Weather Channel goes live for about 7 hours. During severe weather events, The Weather Channel can extend live coverage, give live updates, or enable dual feed programming. The latter two options have been criticized for apparently prioritizing The Weather Channel's long-form programming over public safety.

Scheduling

As of 2021, live programming on The Weather Channel is scheduled in the following blocks:

Weather Channel live programming schedule (As of November 2021)
Time (Eastern) Weekdays

(Monday-Friday)

Weekends

(Saturday and Sunday)

6:00 AM America's Morning Headquarters America's Weekend Headquarters
7:00 AM
8:00 AM
9:00 AM Weekend Recharge
10:00 AM
11:00 AM
12:00 Noon Weather Underground
1:00 PM Long-form programming
2:00 PM
3:00 PM
4:00 PM Storm Center
5:00 PM
6:00 PM
7:00 PM
8:00 PM Start of long-form programming

History

Note: Unless otherwise stated, all times are in Eastern Time.

From its inception in 1982 to the debut of The Weather Classroom in 1993 and Atmospheres in 2000, live programming made up the entirety of The Weather Channel's schedule.

The earliest available schedules from 1998 show that the broadcast day was dayparted into early morning programs from 5 to 9 AM Eastern, daytime programming from 9 AM to 7 PM, evening programs from 7 to 11 PM, late evening programs from 11 PM to 1 AM, midnight programming from 1 to 2 AM, and overnight programs from 2 to 5 AM.[1] By 1999, the morning and evening segments had been split, and the midnight programming was explicitly targeted to the Western United States.[2]

Branded programs were introduced in 2000, with Your Weather Today broadcast from 7 to 9 AM on weekdays.[3] First Outlook would be introduced later that year,[4] followed by Evening Edition, which aired from 9 PM to 11 PM (with a re-air from midnight to 2 AM), and Weekend Now, broadcast from 5 AM to 11 AM on Saturday and Sunday, both in 2001.[5]

By 2005, the entire broadcast day had been dayparted. Following First Outlook and Your Weather Today, the weekday scheduled continued with Day Planner from 9 AM to noon, Weather Center from noon to 4 PM, Afternoon Center from 4 to 6 PM, and PM Edition from 6 to 8 PM, which now led into Storm Stories. The overnight programming was also branded as Overnight Outlook. Weekend programming was extensively reorganized; Weekend Outlook aired from 5 to 7 AM, Weekend View followed from 7 to 11 AM, with Weekend Now now airing from 11 AM to 2 PM. Weekend Weather Center from 2 to 5 PM and the weekend version of PM Edition from 5 PM to 8 PM rounded out the weekend day and evening schedule, with the primetime and overnight hours following the same pattern as weekdays.[6] Another reorganization of the schedule in 2006 saw First Outlook extended to start at 4 AM, with Your Weather Today extended until 10 AM. The West Coast edition of Evening Edition was extended until 4 AM. On the weekends, Weekend Overnight aired at 4:30 AM after Weather In The Classroom, and the environmentally-focused long-form Forecast Earth was introduced for the 5 PM hour, allowing the weekend version of PM Edition to air on the same hours as on the weekdays. In addition, an additional hour of the primetime schedule on Friday and Sunday was turned over to long-form programming; delaying Evening Edition to 10 PM on those days.[7]

Abrams and Bettes was started in 2007 at 8 PM, pushing Storm Stories to 7 PM. Later that year, the 2 PM hour was turned over to long-form programming, resulting in another schedule re-organization. Day Planner now aired weekdays from 10 AM to 2 PM, with Weather Center taking over the 3 to 5 PM timeslot. The 9 PM hour of long-form programming on Fridays was dropped at this time. The weekend schedule was also modified; Weekend Overnight was dropped, Weekend Weather Center was truncated to air from 3 to 5 PM, PM Edition Weekend was limited to the 6 PM and 8 PM hours, and the weekend version of Evening Edition aired in the 10 PM, midnight, and 2 AM hours.[8] In 2008, Abrams and Bettes moved to the 7 PM hour, truncating PM Edition to two hours and leaving the 8 PM hour to long-form programs.[9]

In 2009, long-form programming was eliminated at 2 PM during weekdays, and moved to the 9 PM hour during primetime. Weather Center took over the vacated 2 PM hour, and Evening Edition filled the 8 PM hour. On weekends, Sunrise Weather aired at 4:30 AM, and Evening Edition Weekend now aired from 10 PM to midnight, and 1 to 4 AM.[10] In July 20 of that year, Wake Up With Al debuted at 6 AM and 10 AM, taking advantage of corporate synergies with then-corporate sibling NBC to introduce Al Roker to the Weather Channel lineup. In 2010, long form programming was extended into the 3 PM hour on weekdays, and was eliminated from primetime. Weekend View was extended into the 5 to 7 AM block formerly named Weekend Outlook; weekend afternoons were filled with long-form programming from 2 to 5 PM, causing the elimination of Weekend Weather Center and reorganizing PM Edition Weekend into two three-hour blocks starting at 5 PM and 11 PM.[11] Another programming reorganization occurred by 2011, with Day Planner now scheduled from 11 AM through 5 PM, and Weather Center limited to one hour blocks at 7 PM, 10 PM, and 1 AM. On the weekends, PM Edition Weekend was not limited to an hour-long block at 4 PM, with Weather Center airing in one-hour blocks at 7 PM, 10 PM, and 1 AM.[12]

On November 12, 2012, Your Weather Today was rebranded Morning Rush. Along with the rename, the First Outlook timeslot was split in two, with First Forecast now broadcast at the 4 AM hour and On the Radar following at 5 AM. Day Planner was cut back to end at 2 PM, with long-form programming taking up the 2 to 5 PM timeslots. Weather Center ended and was replaced by Weather Center Live, which aired from 5 to 8 PM, and for hour-long blocks at 10 PM and 1 AM; on weekends, Weather Center Live also took over the 4 PM timeslot previously held by PM Edition Weekend in addition to all previous Weather Center timeslots.[13]

As part of The Weather Channel's rebranding in 2013, Day Planner, Weekend View, and Weekend Now were retired, and replaced with expanded editions of Weather Center Live. On March 17, 2014, Morning Rush was again rebranded to AMHQ. By December 2014, the live programming was eliminated from weekend afternoons and evenings; live programming was now scheduled from 4 AM to 2 PM on weekends (save for a 30-minute block of WX Geeks at 1 PM on Sundays).[14] Weekend Recharge launched in March 2015, taking over Weather Center Live's weekend timeslots from 9 AM to 12 noon; around this time, the 4 AM and weekend 12 noon to 2 PM hours were turned over to long-form programming.[15] Weather Underground would launch in August 2015 within the weekday 6 PM to 8 PM timeslots, capitalizing on the popularity of the associated TWC-owned internet site of the same name.[16][17] Wake Up With Al would be canceled on October 2, 2015, with AMHQ being extended to fill its timeslot.

In June 2018, Weather Underground took over the 5 PM timeslot from Weather Center Live, AMHQ's weekend timeslots were cut to 6 to 9 AM, and Weekend Recharge was extended to end at 1 PM; this was followed by the temporary cancellation of AMHQ's 5 AM hour on weekdays in March 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Weather Channel would later drop the AMHQ initialism in June 2021, with the show, which had also been extended through noon, now referred to using America's Morning Headquarters, with Weather Underground extended to the 4 PM hour. The long-running Weather Center branding was retired on November 12, 2021. The following week, Weather Underground moved to the 12 noon to 4 PM slot abandoned by Weather Center Live, and Storm Center premiered in Weather Underground's former timeslot.

During the 2000s decade, The Weather Channel's live forecast segments would be divided into four regions, Northeast, South, Midwest, and West.[18]

Characteristics

As of 2021, live programming is aired on a hour long clock, with programs starting around 58 minutes before the hour, a legacy of the scheduling for Local on the 8s. Programming will start with an overview of weather-related headlines, followed by analysis of weather conditions and forecasts for weather systems affecting the Contiguous United States. Analysis of weather conditions will often include radar and satellite images, as well as focuses on active weather warnings and mapped observation data. Forecast analysis will focus on modeled representations on the system's development, as well as forecasts of impacts to population centers. Interviews with meteorologists or local public officials are also common, with many interviews conducted remotely via Zoom or telephone.

Live feeds from webcams operated by independent entities and storm chasers are often used for tracking and illustrative purposes, while images and videos from social media and NBC affiliates (the latter a legacy of The Weather Channel's part-ownership by NBC) are often used to illustrate severe weather conditions as they become available.

The typical hour will have at least two segments that will focus on adjacent topics, with coverage of issues surrounding climate change (often produced in cooperation with Pattrn) and science and technology (with a focus on atmospheric, space, or environmental science) among the most common topics. When a major system is approaching, The Weather Channel will occasionally run segments on weather preparedness and safety for the approaching threat, as well as the scientific basis behind the upcoming system. Seasonal segments include overviews of tropical weather during the Atlantic hurricane season (June to November) and increased travel segments during periods of high travel demand (such as the Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving holidays). Segments are also devoted to promoting upcoming programs aired on the Weather Channel; this includes airing clips from the Weather Channel's long-form programs and, as of 2021, the cast of Weather Underground appearing during the last hour of America's Morning Headquarters.

The end of the last live program before the start of long-form programming will typically feature a short review of the main weather headlines and a national forecast for the next day. If Live Updates or Dual Feed are planned for a severe weather event, the on-camera meteorologist will typically make a note before signing off.

Major weather events, such as hurricanes and winter storms, will generate more focus on the event in question, with more time in an hour block dedicated to analysis of the event, and correspondents sent out for live reports. An additional graphic can be added to display constant information on the current status event and its forecast impacts. The most severe events, like landfalling major hurricanes and the most impactful Nor'easters, will warrant continuous coverage that may pre-empt or delay long-form programming. In addition, the coverage may be hosted from an outside broadcast location being impacted by the event, with The Weather Channel studios hosting the storm experts. The entire graphic design of the channel may also change, with graphics switched from blue-toned during normal coverage to a red-toned skin, colloquially known as "Red Mode", for the duration of the event. The Weather Channel has been known to dump advertising for extended periods in extremely severe cases; as of 2021, this has only been observed with tornado emergencies.[19]

Coverage of events outside the contiguous United States is rare, and tends to be limited to segments on major landfalling tropical cyclones (which could be increased in the event of a hurricane expected to impact the United States), winter weather events, or other outstanding natural phenomena. Notable exceptions included providing regular daily forecasts for Afghanistan during the opening phases of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001, and live coverage of Hurricane Lane in Hawaii in 2018.[20][21] The Weather Channel has also been known to broadcast the countdown to the new year live, using webcam footage of the Times Square celebrations in New York City.[22]

Extended coverage

During periods of widespread severe weather, The Weather Channel can opt to extend live coverage beyond the end of the last schedule live program, pre-empting long-form programming that is typically scheduled in the primetime and early overnight hours. As of 2022, the most common reasons for extended coverage slots are coverage of approaching tropical cyclones or widespread severe thunderstorm and tornado risk. The title of this extended coverage varies depending on the threat, previous examples have included Severe Storm Central for widespread severe thunderstorm outbreaks, and Tracking [Storm Name] (e.g., Tracking Ida) for hurricanes or named winter storms.

In contrast to Dual Feed coverage, extended coverage of this type is broadcast nationally, including on satellite television and other national-level providers. The extended coverage is promoted via The Weather Channel's social media accounts, by on-air graphics, and by on-camera staff. The extended coverage format is very similar to the format used during regularly scheduled live coverage, with the aforementioned focus on live weather analysis. As of 2022, extended coverage typically ends at midnight or 1 AM Eastern time, depending on the location of the threat. During Hurricane Ida's approach towards Louisiana, The Weather Channel kept broadcasting overnight using an automated feed of Ida-related graphics.[23]

Live Updates

Kelly Cass giving a Live Update nationally for Tropical Storm Cristobal.

In the case of a Live Update, The Weather Channel can do a brief update about 50-60 seconds in length updating viewers across the nation of ongoing severe weather across the country. Live Updates air every 30 minutes, typically at :00 or :30 past the hour, depending on the program's timing. Live Updates are most common in the evening hours before midnight ET, with updates throughout the rest of the night less common and appearing during the most severe events depending on staffing.

Automated updates

An automated update from January 2022.

Automated updates are a subset of Live Updates, distinguished by being graphics-focused and having no on-screen presenter. If The Weather Channel elects to use automated updates, they air at :00 and :30 past the hour. A typical automated update is introduced by a generic voice-over, and comes in three or four parts, with screens for active alerts, radar/satellite data (incorporating current position and wind information for tropical systems), and forecast information (typically the NHC cone and a model "spaghetti plot" for a tropical system, or expected snowfall for a winter storm).[24][25]

Dual Feed

Dual Feed is a specialized feed sent to select IntelliStar systems based on the weather event and the location of the unit. In dual feed, meteorologists can break into programming "as necessary" to update viewers on any significant weather warnings in "their area". It is believed that Dual Feed is activated by STAR ID. This feed runs during taped programming before midnight ET. On the WATTv1 Dual feed could easily be identified with the Live LDL running during the taped programming and an "You're Watching TWC" banner on the sidebar. Before mid-2018, Dual Feed viewers received an alternate news ticker. On WATTv2, the dual feed LDL appears as an inverted color of the normal LDL color and includes transparency.

Screenshot of Dual Feed in May 2020.

There was a test of dual feed in 2015 where viewers in New York saw a specialized show for weather in New York City with Paul Goodloe while the rest of the country would see Weather Underground during that time. Video or screenshots of the trial is very minimally documented though.

Dual Feed coverage of storms has been criticized for allowing The Weather Channel to continue airing longform programming during extreme weather events, such as Tornado Emergencies declared by the National Weather Service; it is thought that viewership outside the immediate area of the emergency would be interested in the event and potentially inform non-viewers within the area. In addition, Dual Feed capabilities are not available over satellite and other national-level providers, limiting the reach of the dedicated storm coverage. As of 2021, Dual Feed coverage is available across the United States for cable subscribers on the Weather Channel's app for smart TV devices, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV.

See also

References

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  15. "On TV This Week! - weather.com". Archived from the original on April 1, 2015.
  16. "Weather Underground TV Premiere & some of "Top 10 Worst Hurricanes" - YouTube".
  17. "On TV This Week! - weather.com". Archived from the original on September 1, 2015.
  18. "The Weather Channel longplay (10/11/2005 6:30 PM - 7:13 PM ET) on YouTube".
  19. "The Weather Channel Coverage of the Newnan, GA EF-4 Tornado - 3/25/2021 11:00 PM CDT on YouTube".
  20. "THE WEATHER CHANNEL DELIVERS AFGHANISTAN WEATHER ON-AIR AND ONLINE". weather.com. Archived from the original on December 1, 2001.
  21. "Hurricane Lane - America's Morning Headquarters - Facebook".
  22. "The Weather Channel Countdown to New Year 2022".
  23. "The Weather Channel Hurricane Ida Emergency Feed".
  24. "The Weather Channel - Automated Joaquin Tropical Update - 2am 10/2/2015".
  25. "The Weather Channel Winter Storm Lana Update - 1/10/2021 6:30 PM CT".