Cable Operators

NBC Weather Net Seeks Affils

11/21/2004 7:00 PM Eastern

NBC Universal launched its new digital weather channel last week in New York — but the network, set to expand into 15 additional markets over the next 90 days, still lacks cable or satellite distribution.

Time Warner Cable’s New York division is the only cable system that has agreed to carry NBC Weather Plus, which debuted Nov. 15 on the system’s channel 731.

Last week, NBC said it plans to launch local versions of NBC Weather Plus in Orlando, Fla.; Raleigh and Winston-Salem, N.C.; Seattle; Portland, Ore.; Charlotte, N.C.; Detroit; Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas; Oklahoma City; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; and Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

NBC said it will split ownership of the local NBC Weather Plus channels 50-50 with its affiliate groups, including Hearst-Argyle Television, Post-Newsweek, The New York Times Co. and Belo Corp.

As Multichannel News first reported last week, NBC Weather Plus contains an L-wrap screen, with graphics displaying five-day forecasts running along the bottom and temperatures, humidity and precipitation information placed on the left side.

Weathercasters from WNBC-TV and MSNBC are shooting at least one live-weather update per hour. The hourly weather update is repeated several times throughout the hour.

Between weather updates, NBC Weather Plus fills its schedule with radar images running on the main portion of the screen, accompanied by elevator-style music.

The weather radar content is interspersed with direct-response television advertisers. DRTV commercials last week included spots for a Golf Digest video on “How to Cure Your Slice,” ads for The Wall Street Journal, Time-Life home videos and Walt Disney DVDs.

Weather Plus is also selling the upper left-hand panel on the screen for billboard advertising. Gore-Tex and NBC parent General Electric Co. were the only advertisers that have run billboards on the space.

NBC said that it has agreements to launch local NBC Weather Plus channels with affiliates covering 50% of U.S. households. But since few homes have the broadcast DTV receivers needed to view the broadcast signal, cable distribution deals are important for NBC.

NBC Cable president David Zaslav said that depending on existing agreements with individual cable operators, NBC will sell NBC Weather Plus to cable operators in standalone deals, or package the channel in retransmission-consent agreements or deals for other NBC Cable-owned networks such as USA Network, MSNBC, CNBC or Bravo.

September