History of The Weather Channel
The history of The Weather Channel in the United States dates to around 1980.
Prior to launch, the original concept for providing continuous weather reports to the public over television stations stretched as far back as the late `50's and early `60's on the varying incarnations of CATV. In those systems, which typically brought in up to a dozen stations to the viewer from across the region, 12 slots on a cable dial would often leave a few vacancies.
Early cable providers then devised a system where a single black and white camera, often one that was formerly used for local news after an upgrade, would be placed on a rotating pedestal, capturing various dials and gauges on different stations to which it would pan automatically and stay for a few seconds before moving on. The different stations featured the time, temperature, barometer, wind speed, wind direction, wind-chill factor. Slides with the day's complete forecast, brief news headlines and community events often drawn up by the station's Art Department rounded out the package. This was the same system as that used by the early Devotional Channels and for the Stations of the Cross during Christmastime.
The Weather Channel itself was the brainchild of former WLS-TV Chicago chief meteorologist and Good Morning America forecaster John Coleman, who took his idea to Landmark's then-chief Frank Batten.
A major part of the plan for the new network was that it would be able to provide localized weather information to its viewers. This was done through WeatherSTAR units located at each cable company's headend. These WeatherSTARs were able to insert local conditions, forecasts, and warnings over the national feed.
The early years: May 1982 - March 1986 
The Weather Channel went on the air on May 2, 1982. The channel reported the weather and other meteorological information for the United States as well as other countries and regions of the world. TWC originally gathered its national region forecasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its local forecasts from local National Weather Service offices.
The original Weather Star I model often interfered with the channel 2 signal at the cable headend; the upgrade to the Weather Star II in January 1984 fixed this. The Weather Star III upgrade, which took place in early 1986, improved the hardware even more, and also added several extra forecast and observation features.
You Need Us: March 1986 - January 1991 
In 1986, The Weather Channel unveiled its first major image campaign and slogan, "You Need Us For Everything You Do". A full one-minute lyrical theme was created, but rarely aired - the shorter version was more commonly seen. 1989 saw the remixing of the theme. Also in 1989, Prime Time Tonight, a 3-minute video cable guide that appears daily every 9 times from 7:57pm to 11:27pm was introduced.
1990 saw the introduction of the first Weather Star 4000 models in a text-based system similar to the Weather Star III. In-STAR radar was introduced in June of that year, and graphical backgrounds were introduced in July, making TWC history by being the first STARs to generate graphics and the first to feature the TWC logo in the forecast. Also in 1990, The Weather Channel included snow condition reports at 5 minutes after the hour.
Weather You Can Always Turn To: March 1991 - October 1996 
Largely considered the height of the classic TWC by enthusiasts, The Weather Channel underwent a major graphic revamp with its new banner slogan being "Weather You Can Always Turn To" on March 6,1991. Graphic elements include heavy use of gradients and the Caxton typeface. July 3 brought The Weather Channel Connection, a 1-900 service for obtaining weather information. Originally 1-900-288-8800, it moved to 1-900-WEATHER in 1992 and used its phone number as its name. On 1 November, The Weather Channel filed for a trademark on TWC, a common shortening of the name that was even seen on air.
By 1993, 90% of cable households received The Weather Channel.
On January 10, 1994, TWC placed an order for 1,000 Weather Star Jr units with Wegener Communications, which builds equipment for cable headends. The Star Jr. is a budget model in the Weather Star line.
1995 brought a variety of changes to TWC, setting the stage for more changes in 1996. Minor graphical tweaks were made. The Short Term Forecasts from the National Weather Service were introduced to Local Forecasts as the Local Update (which in turn destabilized flavor lineups and caused the discontinuation of narration). The 30-Day Outlook was discontinued by the National Weather Service (which required TWC to discontinue the product). New program introductions included WeatherScope (top/bottom of the hour weather discussion) was introduced and a special on how weather affected Pearl Harbor on December 7. The music of Trammell Starks, used on Weatherscan and emergency cases since 2000, premiered at the end of the year. The Weather Channel ended the use of Trammell Starks music in early 2012.
Major modernization: October 1996 - March 1998 
In two years, The Weather Channel changed dramatically. The first wave of change came in February 1996. A new slogan hit viewers' screens, "No place on Earth has better weather", heralded with a trio of humorous spots promoting the accuracy of TWC weather coverage. Months later, The Weather Channel received its biggest overhaul since 1991. A newer, flatter logo, new graphics featuring rotating globes and compass points, and new music made for a total modernization of TWC presentation. 1996 also saw the launch of weather.com, The Weather Channel's Web portal. Local on the 8s, a concept in which local forecasts aired at :08, :18, :28, :38, :48, and :58 after the hour, also made its debut. The first iteration of Local on the 8s was somewhat short-lived, only lasting until early 1998. However, the concept was revived in December 2001, and is still used by TWC to this day.
On May 22, Landmark Communications bought a building at 300 Interstate North near the junction of Interstates 75 and 285 in Atlanta for TWC. TWC had been looking for new studios, and requirements included 18-foot ceilings. Improvements were made to bring the building up to code before TWC moved into its new home at the end of 1996 (but not doing broadcasting from there until early 1997).
On October 30, the first use in commerce of the name Weather Star XL was marked; two years later, the XL would make its debut, the catalyst for top-to-bottom modernization of the local forecast segment. Throughout this time period, The Weather Channel would end up with their old logo on segments, and some specialty segments retained their Dan Chandler narration and/or old TWC logo into late 1997. By 1996, The Weather Channel reached 63 million homes, with 130,000 watching at one time.
In 1997, TWC moved to its new home. A new schedule was introduced in a news wheel format on 31 March. August 25, 1997 brought a memorable advertising campaign, The Front, created by ad agency TBWA Chiat/Day. The setting was something akin to a sports bar, but the major difference was that weather was the central focus. The slogan used with The Front was Weather fans, you're not alone. The 1997 World Series was the first that TWC covered with live reporters. January 6, 1998 saw the introduction of new title bars for national segments.
The second wave of change: March 1998 - June 2001 
In March 1998, TWC refreshed again, with extended variants of Akzidenz-Grotesk and footage of clouds at the core of the new identity. For the first time in the channel's history, there was no slogan or unifying theme. WeatherScope was out and replaced with the Weather Center brand, which essentially comprised TWC's entire 24-hour daily programming schedule at the time. There were three variations of Weather Center: "Weather Center AM" in the morning, "Weather Center PM" during the evening hours, and a generic version simply known as "Weather Center" in the afternoon. April 1998 saw updates to The Front. One of the new advertisements specifically mentioned the 36-hour text forecasts (which, at the time, were still supplied by the National Weather Service), but heralded new Local Forecast graphics; the machine that produced those graphics, the IRIX-based Weather Star XL, came out later that year as the first new mainline STAR in eight years. Its capabilities were significantly more advanced than the 4000, with animated, high-quality output consistent with TWC's national graphics and new scalable icons; the icons would be used for eight years on TWC but still remain on the Weather Star XLs still in service and certain downloadable web widgets.
1999 brought the removal of the unpredictable-length Local Update on the Weather Star 4000, which stabilized flavor lineups. Also in 1999, Weatherscan Local, originally exclusive to Comcast systems, was introduced. Weatherscan runs continuous weather information 24 hours a day. Cable operators could add optional packages featuring expanded weather information or specialty (golf, boat and beach, marine, etc.) to their Weatherscan systems. That year brought Sky on Fire, a documentary on lightning, and a new president at TWC, Decker Anstrom. By 1999, The Weather Channel reached 70 million homes, 98% of all cable households. It also provided radio forecasts to more than 250 radio stations and weather maps to 52 newspapers. Between 1999 and 2000, TWC aired conditions reports from Mount Everest using battery-powered sensors.
2000 brought Vocal Local, which uses narration to read local forecast data, to XL systems; while most cable operators added the Vocal Local feature, some did not employ it on their Weather Star XL units. Music was switched from quarterly to monthly playlists; as such, 2000 is considered the split between the "classic" TWC and "modern" TWC by several websites. Atmospheres, a newsmagazine-style program, premiered on August 23 of that year. Also in 2000, The Weather Channel starting moving away from showing Weather Center 24 hours a day with the introduction of two morning programs: Your Weather Today and First Outlook. Your Weather Today replaced Weather Center AM on weekdays, but Weather Center AM was still shown on weekends until early 2001.
In 2001, a major change occurred on Weatherscan. Local forecasts generated for each county by the National Weather Service were removed and replaced with TWC products. While the NWS forecasts were of high quality, the new TWC forecasts were generated for areas, beneficial to multi-county viewing zones served by one STAR. In May 2001, TWC launched "Rays Awareness", an initiative focused on sun safety  in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and American Academy of Dermatology.
The "Live By It" era: June 2001 - August 2005 
On June 25, 2001, The Weather Channel had its first relaunch in over three years. The local forecast and program intros were completely redesigned. In addition, a new slogan, "Live By It," was introduced. The slogan was heard on station IDs and intros to programs. With the discontinuation of Weather Center AM and PM, Weather Center was now a single general program rather than existing in three separate versions specific to the time of day, having been significantly pared down with the introduction of new programs such as Evening Edition and Weekend Now.
September 2001 saw the Weather Star XL get refreshed for the first time. Changes included different colors on text boxes, a new cloud background, improved regional forecast and radar maps, and new title bars and fonts that, just like the previous version, matched the on-air graphics that were used by TWC at the time.
In April 2002, what happened the previous year on Weatherscan hit the Weather Stars: The NWS forecasts were out. As NWS bulletins/warnings were in the old forecasts, a Weather Bulletins page displays the applicable watches, warnings, and advisories (on the 4000, The Weather Channel does send NWS Bulletins to appear in the text-based local forecast, as the 4000 does not feature the Weather Bulletins slide). May 2002 brought TWC's 20th anniversary; to celebrate, a special was aired, and a book was published by Harvard Business Press, The Weather Channel: The Improbable Rise of a Media Phenomenon (ISBN 978-1-57851-559-2), written by TWC founder Frank Batten and Jeffrey L. Cruikshank.
The first long form programs arrived at The Weather Channel to begin 2003, with Storm Stories being the first program that was not weather or a documentary-type special. Also in 2003, Live By It was refreshed slightly. Weatherscan received a new design in February and moved to a modern STAR platform, known as the IntelliStar. The FreeBSD-based IntelliStar is more flexible than the IRIX-based Star XL for updates. Plans to revive The Front as a weather discussion board were proposed and scrapped that year.
2004 saw the introduction and decommissioning of STARs. The IntelliStar made its way to TWC from Weatherscan. The Weather Star III was removed from service when DTMF tone and weather warning regulations were not being met. In October 2004, the United States Postal Service and TWC teamed up to create stamps depicting clouds and an accompanying "Cloudscapes" educational campaign - aimed at kids in grades 3 through 5 - about reading clouds to tell of pending weather conditions sent to 200,000 educators around the US, unveiled at Boston, Massachusetts' Blue Hill Observatory.
In early 2005, The Weather Channel announced a major refresh - its first new logo in nine years, a new slogan, and other new elements - was to occur in August. The relaunch was part of a long-running effort aimed at reducing the network's dependence on "commodity" viewers (those looking for forecast information) and attracting what then-TWC president Patrick Scott calls "vitalists" (those with an active interest in weather) and "planners" using the channel to plan the week.
Bringing weather to life: August 2005-June 2008 
On August 15, 2005, at 5am Eastern Daylight Time, The Weather Channel underwent a total relaunch. A newer, simpler logo was introduced, as was a new slogan, "Bringing weather to life". More serial programs were introduced. The refresh came with STAR graphics refreshes for the XL and IntelliStar, both receiving the new logo and a new cloud background. The XL also received new title bars.
In May 2007, The Weather Channel celebrated 25 years on the air, the festivities including airing select past Weather Channel commercials and showing a special 25th anniversary logo during commercial breaks (see the Logos section for details). June 17 saw the announcement of a deal with MSNBC's msnbc.com that made TWC the exclusive weather content provider for msnbc.com. September 26 saw the launch of the HD simulcast channel, and October 23 introduced a major refresh for the IntelliStar, with new titles and backgrounds.
2008 started with uncertainty, as rumors abounded about on-camera meteorologists Bob Stokes sexually harassing co-anchor Hillary Andrews. Andrews filed a lawsuit in Cobb County district court against The Weather Channel alleging the abuse by Stokes (which included statements like "Will you lick my swizzle stick" and saying that TWC "covered it up"). In May, Andrews won the lawsuit and was awarded an undisclosed amount of money. During the proceedings, it was revealed that Stokes' co-anchor before Andrews, Melissa Barrington, was also harassed. At the same time, Landmark Communications announced it was selling most of its assets, including broadcast television stations, newspapers, The Weather Channel, and data center facilities.
Becoming an NBC-owned channel and transition to high-definition: June 2008-present 
On June 2, The Weather Channel unveiled its first major modernization since 2005. New graphics and openers for every TWC program, a new IntelliStar lower display line with tabs (another first), and a full thrust into the channel's new studios were the results of a massive move to high-definition. By August 12, the old SD studios were out of service and ready to be turned into offices.
The channel got more in the way of change a month later, as NBC Universal purchased the channel, weather.com, Weather Services International, a 30% stake in Canadian company Pelmorex, and miscellaneous other assets for $3.5 billion along with private equity firms The Blackstone Group and Bain Capital, from the family-owned Landmark Communications. Later, Landmark announced it was halting the sales of most of the other properties except for one newspaper. The Weather Channel was the only property sold by Landmark.
In November, like all NBC Universal properties, it joined the "Green is Universal" campaign for environmental awareness. The logo was turned green (normally done from master control on other networks) by sending an update to the IntelliStar to change the logo. Ironically, in the middle of "green week" (on November 20), The Weather Channel made major layoffs, described as cost synergies - three active on-camera meteorologists and one former one, the marketing department, the Road Crew (originally including Jeff Mielcarz, but Mielcarz then appeared on some weather.com video forecasts in December 2008), significant portions of the TWC Radio Network, and the Forecast Earth/environmental unit. (However, certain portions of the Forecast Earth unit remain with TWC.) The layoffs took effect on November 30. (The Weather Channel later stated it would air other environmental programs.) With the shutdown of NBC Weather Plus, certain assets from Weather Plus (meteorologists and technology, specifically) have been rebranded as TWC assets with TWC-branded graphics. The NBC Weather Plus meteorologists continued based from NBC Universal headquarters at Rockefeller Center and appeared often on MSNBC until the 2009 closure of the entire division. TWC personalities and on-camera meteorologists, such as Jim Cantore and Mike Seidel, have appeared on NBC and MSNBC properties since the sale. One of the motives for the cuts was in order to aid a $500 billion budget cut at NBC Universal parent company General Electric; NBC Universal and CNBC have also made cuts.
February 2009 started with layoffs of four OCMs at the channel; midway through the month, it was discovered by members to a TWC fan forum and a leak on the TWC media kit that The Weather Channel was shaking up the schedule radically, including canceling Evening Edition, Abrams & Bettes: Beyond the Forecast, Forecast Earth, and Weekend Outlook, dramatically changing Weather Center and turning sections of it over to Abrams & Bettes - all between February 21 and March 1. It had already been announced that Storm Stories was to return as part of a Tornado Week. The program changes are some of the most far-reaching since 2003, which saw the creation of programs such as Day Planner and PM Edition. In March 2009, TWC personalities and programs dramatically ramped up use of Twitter - at the same time, other NBC Universal properties (especially MSNBC) did the same. Programs now regularly feature viewer tweets.
On March 5,2009, Geoffrey Darby was named Executive Vice President of Programming and Production. Under Darby, Abrams and Bettes were moved to Your Weather Today; First Outlook was shortened by one hour to make way for a new show Wake Up With Al featuring Al Roker; and the longstanding jazz on the channel was removed and replaced with instrumental rock at Darby's request; it was even confirmed by Chris Geith, the only remaining jazz artist in the playlists, that TWC had sent out a request for proposal to create production music branded with a common signature for the channel. TWC began showing weekly movies related to weather on Friday nights, beginning October 30, 2009; this caused criticism from many viewers and those in the media, who have criticized The Weather Channel for deviating from its format of running weather information 24 hours a day. The first film seen on TWC was The Perfect Storm. Other films included March of the Penguins and Misery. Showing movies on TWC was a move that was planned for some time, even before the acquisition by NBC. After December 2009, these weekly movies were discontinued for the time being in favor of running Weather Center, which already aired in the entire primetime slot during the rest of the work week. Despite the controversy, the channel revisit the Friday night film block starting on March 26, 2010 with Into Thin Air.
Since the acquisition by NBC, live programming such as Your Weather Today has featured live video from NBC-owned or affiliated stations, as well as live or videotaped field reports from news correspondents employed by the local NBC affiliate serving the area being covered.
In January 2011, TWC announced that Australian-born landscape photographer Peter Lik would be starring in a new half-hour action-adventure nature reality series titled From the Edge with Peter Lik, to debut March 31. The program is produced by NBC's in-house production unit, Peacock Productions. Lik will also serve as a special contributor for TWC, providing segments from his frequent travels to weather-impacted locales. 
Later in 2011, the Intellistar 2, the high-definition counterpart to the Intellistar, began a gradual rollout process to cable companies across the country. The Intellistar 2 is shown on top of the high-definition national feed during Local on the 8s segments; the original Intellistar is still shown on the standard-definition feed of The Weather Channel.
The 30th anniversary of the 1982 launch of The Weather Channel took place in May 2012.
- Frank Batten; Jeffrey L. Cruikshank (2002). The Weather Channel. Harvard Business Press. p. 41. ISBN 9781578515592.
- USPTO filings: First Use (not First Use in Commerce date on various filings, including filing w/ serial number 73369821)
- Nelson, Janet (November 11, 1990). "PRACTICAL TRAVELER; Snow-Condition Reports: How Accurate Are They?". The New York Times. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
- USPTO filing for Weather You Can Always Turn To, First Use in Commerce date; Serial number 74229581
- First Use in Commerce date for The Weather Channel Connection trademark, serial number 74192763 on USPTO
- USPTO trademark filing for TWC, First Use in Commerce date. Registration number 1925906
- Elliott, Stuart (June 9, 1993). "THE MEDIA BUSINESS: ADVERTISING; Defying the skeptics, the Weather Channel finds a silver lining in Mother Nature's mood swings". The New York Times. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
- "Wegener Communications. (Weather Channel orders Wegener's Weather Star Jr. units) (Satellite Circuit)". Satellite News. January 10, 1994.[dead link]
- Meltzer, Mark (March 10, 1997). "New studio a sunny deal for The Weather Channel".
- USPTO filing, serial number 75252018
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kW4qgrd2_hw (look at 2:17 for the gradient fade on the TWC logo)
- Videos posted on twcdan.com
- http://web.archive.org/web/19961122000027/www.weather.com/twc/history/ The earliest available archive of weather.com in 1996
- http://tampabay.bizjournals.com/atlanta/stories/1997/03/17/newscolumn6.html. Missing or empty
- Elliott, Stuart (August 21, 1997). "The atmosphere is the atmosphere in the pub used in a Weather Channel campaign". The New York Times. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
- Gunther, Marc (October 25, 1999). "The Weather Channel: Hot Enough for Ya?". CNN. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
- Fabrikant, Geraldine (March 15, 1999). "MEDIA; The Weather Channel's High-Profit Center". The New York Times. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
- "Channel To Track Everest Clime". Daily News (New York). May 6, 1999.[dead link]
- USPTO filing, serial number 76486135
- Fox News (2008-05-07). "Report: Ex-Weather Channel Anchorwoman Wins Sex Harassment Claim". New York Post.
- Robert Marich. "The Weather Channel Sale Wraps". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved 2008-09-26. The deal had been announced on July 7, 2008.
- "NBC Axes The Weather Channel's Environmental Unit". Huffington Post. November 22, 2008.
- "TWC Lays Off Staff".
- TVWeek.com October 21, 2009 It's Always Fair Weather...on The Weather Channel
- Press release from TWC announcing Peter Lik program
See also