When did the Weather Channel go downhill?

Dec 4, 2003
I have to say that my viewing of the Weather Channel has been pretty spotty, so I'm curious to get an idea of when you all think the Weather Channel reached its peak and when it dropped. I was piqued by the subject after reading this:


My memory may be unreliable, but chronologically it runs something like this:

1982-1983... it was like a station run by meteorology graduates in a candy store. Lots of radar stops, lots of info on where record temps & precip were broken, and you never knew what they'd toss up... I once saw them put up a map of temperatures over Siberia to make a point about how cold it was going to get soon.

Then it slowly started going downhill through the late 1980s. The comical "Weather & Your Home" segments started with Bill Keneely and Jeanetta Jones showing us how to make hot chocolate, and I'm sure we were all waiting for "Weather And Your Cat". And sleepy elevator music made its home, permanently, in the local forecast by 1987. Before that, they actually used to play stuff like Sheila E. and Ghostbusters!

Then I remember a renaissance around 1994-95 with lots of visible imagery, local radar, severe weather focus, and so forth. Chasers actually took time to see what the TWC was talking about, and TWC even put together that chaser conference in 1996.

Then there was the long slide around 1998-2001. Marketing kids fresh out of college clearly took charge of the ship, and I remember a massive shift towards the lowest common denominator, with a focus on business travelers, the "busy lifestyle", and 18 hours a day (well, maybe not that bad) of Storm Stories.

I have not seen TWC for more than a few minutes since 2003, so I don't even know what's on it anymore. I would like to hear that it's gotten better, but given the bottom-line motives of TV networks I'm not hopeful, and I think with what's on the Internet it's lost relevance among hobbyists.

Is this consistent with what you all remember? How has The Weather Channel changed for you since the 1990s or 1980s? Does anyone have the scoop on any management changes or executives who changed the direction of TWC for better or worse?

I just started getting cable again this week and have been putting The Weather Channel on in the background. I'm happy to say that I'm seeing a lot less of "storm stories" type programs.

Just some notes:

-It does seem like a political editorial, however. I think that The Weather Channel is the Fox News of Global Warming, if that makes sense.

-I think Abrams and Bettes is a little over the top. She, while attractive, is annoying and overly dramatic.

-The new HD graphics lose a little luster on non-HD TVs.

-Good to hear ANCIENT local forecast music being played again. It brings me back to those cold mornings in Montana, watching the local forecast before I'd do my paper route.

-I haven't seen Paul Allen Smith yet. I take this to be a good thing.

-Dave Schwartz is still funny.

-As always, the world revolves around Atlanta. ;)

So, I think I'll be a little less of a TWC basher than I have been in the past five years or so.
One of my favorite past on-air personalities was John Doyle. I heard him say once that during his first tropical weather update on-air he looked over in the corner of the room and in walked John Hope himself and he felt like he was drawing a stick-man for Michaelangelo.

I think the answer your looking for is that once upon a time TWC was owned and operated by meteorologist and "weather people" and over the years more and more CEO types have taken control and now completely control it.

You know when you go to a hospital that is owned by doctors, you'll "usually" get better treatment than from a hospital owned by a board of MBAs. When you watch a weather network owned by "weather people" you'll usually get better information than a weather network operated by a board of MBAs....
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They actually called me for a phoner and had live coverage up on Monday night for the Derecho event in IL/IN. That actually impressed me a lot. I can't imagine severe weather coverage does anything but draw big ratings.
Well, Tim. Thanks for the link. I think it's really all just part of the TV cycle. Things start out with a purpose, such as TWC or MTV, and as the ratings goonies get involved, the basic precept for the channel falls away as they try to capture a greater audience, the big bad buck rears its ugly head and the meaning is lost, while ratings equal greater profits for marketing. I am relatively new to chasing and new to TWC, so I don't know the answer to your question, but I know that TWC fails in so many regards. I would love a channel dedicated to actual weather, without the drama.
I think the mid-90s were the peak time for TWC. They did actually cover the weather back then with a minimum of fluff. It was quite cool to see some of the OCMs chasing...Mike Sidell with the deer in the headlights look from the first rumble of thunder and Cantori getting happier as the sky got darker. IIRC, they did cover May 3 with a live feed from OKC. Except for hurricane landfalls, I've pretty much quit watching. They lost me in 2002 with the non-coverage of the Veterans Day Outbreak.
I've maybe watched 1 hour or so of the weather channel in the last 5 years (mostly during hurricane coverage), but I did flip by during the Chicago event - and they were covering it. So I flipped by it just a day or so ago and they were covering live storms again.

Has something changed - are they covering weather again, or did I just luck out?
A few years back, did some hard convincing to my elderly aunt and uncle on their farm in rural Nebraska to get cable....primarily for the coverage the Wx. Channel could provide them. When I visited them the following June and tornadic wx. broke out..they went right to their local alphabet channel (out of Grand Island). I said to 'em "hey..let's get the Weather Channel on"...and in so many words they told me the equivelant of "the Wx. Channel sucks, and they never watch it anymore." Boy, I felt like a fool.
I like to fall asleep to Evening Edition and the mets are generally goofy in their presentation. Sometimes though it seems like they're talking to kindergartners. Overall I'm pretty impressed with their new image thus far.
I don't remember the year but when there was severe weather in the area or a wide local area and I couldn't get local channels I would turn to the weather channel to find out about it and never find anything but storm stories or some other worthless crap that should be on "the weather story channel" was when it was over for me.

When there was a tornado outbreak near and all you could do was get some people hiking on a mountain covered with snow on the weather channel you knew it was over.
I just noticed a new channel on my Verizon FIOS lineup "Weatherscan" - which is 100% all local weather and has TWC's logo in the upper-right corner. It also has the same music that TWC plays on the "8s" along with the same voice... "Your local radar," "Your local Forecast", "Your current conditions"... it's all radar loops, sat loops, etc... It's sort of a 70/30 split screen with air temp just below the logo on the left, a 3-hour radar loop under that, the main window on the upper-right side of the screen with bigger graphics of radar, satellite loops, forecast text, etc... and have 3-5 day planner under that along with a few crawlers along the bottom displaying area temps. It's "Local on the 8s" on steroids.
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Weatherscan is becoming more common on cable systems now, Ive seen it on Cox and Time Warner recently. It works when you hear thunder and want to see on your TV what the radar looks like around you.
Very interesting read, Tim. Im a recent cable subscriber (the last ten years or so) so Ive seen only the decline of TWC in recent years, although I have seen a bit more weather, less stories lately like others have said, so maybe they have listened.
A little OT, the Weather Channel on XM is horrible. Hopefully there will be something better now that the merger has gone through with Sirius.
There was a definite decline from the early '90s to near present. The worst cases involved the aforementioned "Storm Stories", "Epic Conditions", or some Weather & Home type program with few to zero cuts to current severe weather outbreak details. Yes, the metro video clips of a little breezy or drizzly weather always annoyed me when I could see amazing clips of something impressive from the same date on youtube. I haven't watched enough lately to comment on the HD era changes, but I did see Dr. Greg Forbes recently use his latest "toy" to display a decent 3-D reflectivity surface plot similar to the ones generated with GRL2AE. I would also have to agree about the political Global Warming undercurrent evident in a typical days broadcast. I wouldn't say that I'm hopeful, but maybe some improvement is possible.
TWC really went to hell in a handbasket when they joined the "Global Warming is totally man's fault", stupidity. If they would get rid of the nonstop enviropolitical grandstanding, and focus on breaking weather, it would be a major improvement. But, that's why I use NOAA Weather Radio for breaking local weather. No enviropolitics, just a continuous flow of local data that's actually relevent to what I need to know.
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