The sun is setting on NBC Weather Plus, the 4-year-old digital joint venture between NBC and affiliated local stations, which programmed the 24/7 local weather service on their digital channels. The service was one of the first digital projects conceived as a way for a network and its affiliates to work together to create new revenue streams.
NBC News President Steve Capus informed the on- and off-air Weather Plus staff headquartered at CNBC facilities in Englewood, N.J., Tuesday morning that the operation would be phased out in stages through the end of the year.
Mr. Capus said the NBC affiliates board had notified the network last week of its desire to disband the partnership in which the 10 NBC owned-and-operated stations and approximately 80 affiliates have been participating. Only the NBC O&Os had signed on for the online aspect of Weather Plus. “That’s been, quite frankly, frustrating on our part,” Mr. Capus told TelevisionWeek Tuesday.
He said that jointly owned but locally focused Weather Plus would have come to this end even without NBC Universal’s acquisition of a minority stake in The Weather Channel, for which NBC News will assume programming responsibility and with which NBC News already is sharing some content and talent. NBC has been plugging The Weather Channel after some “Today” show weather segments.
“This is a tough business,” Mr. Capus said. “It has not been a profitable business.”
“It’s a very difficult business climate these days. You can’t ignore those realities,” Mr. Capus said. “Even if the Weather Channel acquisition hadn’t happened, this was a business that was challenged. We were going to have to face that at some point.”
Mr. Capus’ news division last year assumed responsibility for Weather Plus after former NBC-owned stations chief Jay Ireland returned to parent company General Electric. Mr. Capus said he reminded the affiliates then that the news division was facing “real financial pressures.”
Although such Weather Plus talent as Jeff Ranieri had become nationally known through appearances on NBC News programs and MSNBC, the fact that about half of the affiliates did not participate in Weather Plus stymied any thought of national advertising sales and meant all ad support had to come only from local markets.
Among the questions that will need to be addressed are those about the disposition of what Mr. Capus calls “pretty cool gear” Weather Plus has, as well as how many employees, including talent with long-term contracts, can or will be absorbed elsewhere in the network.
“I’m a huge fan of Jeff Ranieri and Bill Karins and some of the other folks, and we’re going to look at everybody and make a determination about what we’re going to do,” Mr. Capus said. “There are some real superstars behind the scenes whom we’ll work to move into other jobs. That’s going to be difficult, given the general climate right now, but we’ll do the best we can.”
Among those he singled out for praise is Weather Plus general manager Jeff Thein.
There was no immediate comment from NBC affiliates board Chairman Michael Fiorile, who is vice chairman and CEO of Dispatch Broadcast Group.
However, the general manager of one of the first affiliates to sign up for Weather Plus, who declined to be identified, said he is eager for Weather Plus to go away.