Verizon FiOS unceremoniously dumped The Weather Channel from its cable lineup this morning, opting to provide subscribers with AccuWeather's new 24/7 weather network in lieu of the Atlanta-based weather behemoth. The move comes a year after the network went through an ugly public brawl with DirecTV.
Verizon FiOS offers cable television packages millions of homes around the country—mostly in urban areas—with several million television subscribers as of July 2010. The company's agreement with The Weather Company to host The Weather Channel and WeatherScan—a 24/7 channel that hosts a continuous loop of 5-day forecasts, weather radar, and forecast maps—expired, and they opted not to renew the contract.
According to an email sent to FiOS customers and posted on the Capital Weather Gang, Verizon cites customers' tendency to get weather from apps and "other sources," a not-so-subtle hint that The Weather Channel isn't the only geek on the block.
Dear Valued Verizon Customer,
Verizon's agreements to carry The Weather Channel and Weather Scan have expired, and have not been renewed. In today's environment, customers are increasingly accessing weather information not only from their TV but from a variety of online sources and apps. Verizon is therefore pleased to launch the new AccuWeather Network, which will be available on FiOS TV on channel 119/619 (HD) and on our free FiOS Mobile App starting March 10, 2015. Verizon will also provide the FiOS TV WeatherBug "widget" application, which features hyper-local weather, on FiOS TV channel 49. WeatherBug can also be launched by pressing the "widget" button on the FiOS TV remote.
Your Verizon Team
This is the second Dear John (Dear Jim?) letter written to The Weather Channel in the past year. DirecTV dumped the network's broadcasts from its satellite subscription on January 14, 2014, citing a dispute over carriage fees and the network's shift away from the all-weather format that brought it to prominence when the network launched in the early 1980s. The network was replaced by Denver-based WeatherNation, which provides 24/7 weather coverage much in the format used by The Weather Channel in its heyday, long before the NBC/Comcast purchase that heralded its slow but steady drift into infotainment shows like Scruffy Huffing Woodsfest.
The satellite company stood firm, signing a multi-year contract with WeatherNation while keeping The Weather Channel off of its lineup for almost three months. After a series of increasingly bizarre and ugly public relations stunts—including a plea to call your members of Congress, as well as a Weather Channel social media editor using the network's official Twitter account to joke that WeatherNation is "where meteorologists go to die"—the network cried uncle on April 8, 2014, agreeing (among other things) to scale back its reality programming and air more live coverage during the week. The two networks appear next to one another on DirecTV's lineup today.
The Weather Channel's replacement on Verizon FiOS is the long-awaited launch of AccuWeather's new 24/7 weather network, aptly named the AccuWeather Network. The Pennsylvania-based weather company has a widespread reach and multiple partnerships with television, radio, and print media across the country, but this is its first foray into television broadcasting.
AccuWeather is not without its own set of hiccups and controversy. The company's founder is long rumored to have influenced Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) into introducing the National Weather Service Duties Act of 2005, which would have abolished the government's weather forecasting agency as we know it, privatizing its data so companies like AccuWeather could profit off of government-subsidized weather data without worrying about competition from meteorologists on the federal payroll.
The company also produces a ridiculous 45-day forecast on its website, allowing users to obtain detailed weather "forecasts" out to a month and a half away from the present. The science of meteorology as it exists today doesn't allow us to accurately forecast weather for more than a week out. Proponents of the forecasts argue that the super-extended range forecasts exist to show trends, but that argument falls flat when you see how detailed these forecasts are. For instance, here's today's forecast for April 23 at The Vane's nerdquarters in central North Carolina:
I conducted a short, informal study at the end of 2013 for the Capital Weather Gang to see how accurate AccuWeather's long-range forecasts are for select cities around the country. Surpisingly (!!!), I found that the forecasts weren't spectacular—you were better off following climatology, which is the day's average high and low temperature.
Companies that track forecast accuracy consistently rank The Weather Channel's forecasts as the most accurate in the United States. A project on The Vane last May (using data from Forecast Advisor) found that The Weather Channel consistently bested AccuWeather on both temperature and precipitation forecasts around the United States.
It remains to be seen if Verizon FiOS will continue to carry the AccuWeather Network solo or if they will continue negotiations with The Weather Channel at some point in the near future. The latter hasn't yet begun a full-fledged campaign to bend Verizon's will with public opinion. Weather dot com doesn't mention the dispute at all, while their Twitter account urges viewers "don't let Verizon decide who you get your weather from." Dr. Greg Forbes, one of the most beloved and trusted experts at the company, asked his Facebook followers to contact Verizon and ask them to bring the network back on-air.
Verizon FiOS is currently the only way to see the AccuWeather Network, and everywhere but Verizon FiOS is the only way to watch The Weather Channel. The only network that streams its television coverage live on the internet is WeatherNation.