Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Weather Minus

This corporation ain't big enough for two weather networks, so it's audios Weather Plus.

NBC has made it official that the fledgling all-weather network is being phased out by the end of the year. The reason: NBC just bought The Weather Channel. Oops.

It wasn't that Weather Plus was all that bad, but rather the timing was the worst since the introduction of the 2008 SUV line-up just in time for $4 a gallon gas. It was envisioned that Weather Plus would offer a 24-hour a day alternative to The Weather Channel's increasingly chatty programming. In reality, it was relegated to the "point 3" channel on most NBC affiliates' new digital signals. Compare that to The Weather Channel's seemingly omnipresence during hurricane season, and it was clear the little dog never had a chance. Furthermore, many local TV stations use their own Doppler radars as the visual backbone for their continuous local weather channels. The Peacock's graphically cluttered theme, combined with oft repeated automated segments, sealed its fate.

The television landscape may support multiple ESPN's, a Fox Sports channel, two C-Spans, multiple children's networks, four PBS signals to every affiliate, and a plethora of religious channels... but there's still room for only one Weather Channel.

Cable Capers

Cable TV providers seem to be running into a number of "disputes" with local TV stations these days. In my general region alone, Time Warner had pulled the plug on two different major network affiliates in two markets last week. What gives? Here it is in a nutshell:

Once upon a time, a cable operator had to provide local channels whether they wanted to or not, 'cause the FCC said so. The "must carry" law went away some years ago, but most cable systems remained unchanged simply because things were working fine they way they were. But now, with the economy in the johnny flusher and ad revenues already off, local TV stations are looking for any means they can find to raise a little cash. The solution: inform the cable operators in your area that they are infringing on your rights by retransmitting your signal without fair compensation. Now, gimmee your money.

Naturally enough, the cable company's response to this is going to be, "@*%# you." They turn off the reception of the local station and put Starz Kids in its place. As a result, instead of Payton Manning and the Colts, you get "Bee Movie." Remote controls go flying. Screens are smashed. TV stations, cable operators, congressmen, and senators find their voice mails melted on Monday morning.

I'm not a lawyer, but it seems to me that if any of these disputes ever came to trial, I would want to know why, oh, say WANE in Fort Wayne, for example, hasn't felt motivated to taking action for the theft of their intellectual property in the any of the previous 50 years that their signal has been retransmitted all over the region. And what makes their signal in 2008 more valuable than the signal they transmitted in 2007, 2006, 2005, etc... Market value? Potential sales revenue? The court will take a 15 minute recess for the jury to stop laughing. YOU'RE A CBS AFFILIATE.

No comments: