Peacock Plays Weather Vane

On Monday morning, weather junkies in New York will be the first in the nation to get a look at NBC’s long-planned Weather Plus digital service.

The channel will be broadcast digitally over WNBC New York and be available to Time Warner Cable subscribers. A mix of familiar local meteorological talent and anchors from NBC and MSNBC will be tossed together with quality graphics and forecast data.

Viewers who tune in will see a 50/50 mix of local and national weather, but graphics on the edge of the screen will provide constant local forecasts and conditions.

NBC will make the service, supported by a dedicated staff at the NBC Newschannel headquarters in Charlotte, N.C., available to affiliates free of charge with both sides then splitting revenues equally.

There will be some capital costs involved. Each station will need to install about $110,000 of new gear, including new weather graphic and forecast products from Weather Central and Leitch automation gear. Stations will receive the feed via satellite and have scheduled times for local reports to be added into the mix.

“We have research that shows that viewers want weather when they want it,” says Terry Maken, chairman of the NBC affiliate group and EVP for Hearst-Argyle. He says Hearst-Argyle NBC stations typically do three minutes of weather five or six times a day. “We’re trying to turn the Weather Channel’s proposition upside down because ours is local first, then regional, then national. “We think we combine the best of both worlds.”

NBC says additional markets will be added later this year and it hopes to have nearly all affiliates signed on by the end of 2005.