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Doppler effective in Shreveport

Dec 31, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Weather is important to Shreveport, La., ABC affiliate KTBS-TV, which is turning up the heat in the market’s forecasting wars with a 1 million-watt Doppler radar system, the most powerful in the country.
KTBS also built a “Weather Lab” set around the radar system, which has two distinctive towers, one at each end of the set. Three stations in other markets have taken notice, and two stations recently bought the Weather Lab blueprints from KTBS.
“It’s probably one of the most comprehensive weather sets in the country, with all the state-of-the-art equipment available-it’s a working set,” said KTBS Station Manager George Sirven. KTBS is also the only station in its market to have three certified meteorologists.
Mr. Sirven said most radar systems provide 250,000 watts of power. The station’s old radar had fewer than 200,000 watts and could only detect storms 100 miles away. The new system has a 300-mile radius. It cost just under $1 million.
“With the 250,000-watt radars, most stations can penetrate the first wave of storms. A meteorologist will look for where there may be problems like a tornado,” Mr. Sirven said. But with this radar, we not only penetrate the first wave of storms but the second and third waves. It becomes an issue with power. By providing more power, we’re able to send a strongersignal out and back so that we’re able to see what’s actually out there a lot more effectively.”
One of the two towers on the set tells viewers what the current weather conditions and temperature are. The other is called the “severe weather tower.” It provides warnings about tornadoes, heat waves, hurricanes, flash floods and thunderstorms.
Ten television monitors in the middle of the lab/set show viewers a street-level map, an aerial map and locators for such weather phenomena as lightning.
Jerry Gumbert, owner of consulting firm Audience Research and Development, helped KTBS design its Weather Lab. “It’s a presentation platform that isn’t just a news set. It’s a usable, viable platform in which to use your weather technologies,” Mr. Gumbert said. “It is a real working laboratory. Before they used to call it a weather set, and it was just a backdrop. We developed a technology strategy that ultimately brought the largest and best meteorological team, the most powerful broadcast Doppler in the world and the most sophisticated weather lab in the country. It’s not whether a tornado will be coming through Shreveport and Texarkana, it’s when and how many.”
Mr. Sirven said viewer feedback has been “tremendous,” and more advertisers now want to sponsor the weather segments.
“The new set has definitely picked up quite a bit of interest among the viewers,” Mr. Sirven said. “I think advertisers are interested mainly because it’s a new approach to weather in the market. We’ve taken the lead when it comes to severe weather. Advertisers know when severe weather happens there are going to be a lot of eyeballs tuned to KTBS.”
It is hard to pinpoint whether the Weather Lab is responsible for boosting ratings, but the numbers have gone up in some key newscasts. In the evenings, the main focus on weather is in the 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts. At 6 p.m. this past November, the newscast earned a 12.2 Nielsen Media Research rating and 21 share, up from last year’s 11.4/20 when there was no Weather Lab. At 10 p.m. this November, the newscast had an 11.8/22, up from November 2000’s 11.6/22. KTBS’s two-hour morning newscast begins at 5 a.m., and the 6 a.m.-to-7 a.m. hour spiked up from a 6.7/30 in November 2000 to an 8.3/33 this November.