Digital Weather Tools Showcased at NAB

Apr 19, 2004  •  Post A Comment

As local broadcasters continue to fire up their digital signals, many are planning to use the spectrum to launch 24-hour local weather channels. To serve that need, at the National Association of Broadcasters convention this week in Las Vegas several leading weather technology companies intend to unveil so-called turnkey solutions that will enable TV stations to get those channels on the air easily.
They are among the many new weather tools for local broadcasters premiering at the show.
The centerpiece product for Weather Central will be DTV Live. The system is a complete weather package that includes software, hardware and graphics capability that provides a local station with the content and tools it needs to offer weather around the clock, said Steve Smedberg, director of marketing for Weather Central in Madison, Wis.
“One of the things broadcasters are really trying to figure out is how to use the digital bandwidth. Since weather has such local impact, we built DTV Live so they can have a 24-hour-a-day weather channel,” he said. The system gives broadcasters real-time information that is updated regularly and matches the look and feel of the station, he said.
AccuWeather’s also getting into the round-the-clock game, but its product is targeted for weather channels in high-definition. Local Digital Weather HD, currently used by “HDNews” as part of the Voom DBS service, is designed to enable satellite groups, cable companies and television stations to offer HD customers a 24-hour weather channel. The system enables a local station to offer a continuous automated presentation of weather, said Lee Rainey, AccuWeather’s VP of marketing.
WSI was one of the first to enter the market with a 24-hour local weather channel solution when it introduced SkyStream DTV five years ago. The product was targeted toward cable operators offering 24-hour news channels, like Time Warner’s regional cable news channels. Now that broadcasters are multicasting with local weather channels, WSI is putting some oomph behind promoting the product to local stations. Colorado Springs, Colo., Evening Post Publishing-owned NBC station KOAA-TV used the service to launch a 24-hour weather channel on Adelphia and plans to also use it to launch on the digital spectrum. KOAA and Gray Television-owned ABC affiliate KAKE-TV in Wichita, Kan., are the first two local stations to use SkyStream.
“Broadcasters aren’t sure what to do with [local weather channels] because they won’t make money for a couple of years, but you don’t want to be the last one there,” said Linda Maynard, VP of media marketing at WSI in Andover, Mass. The biggest benefit of such a system is that it updates the content automatically and then on-camera segments can be added as needed, she said.
WSI also plans to showcase its TrueView Titan, a severe/breaking weather upgrade to its two-year-old TrueView weather presentation product. The newest version operates in 3-D and offers more precise and accurate storm coverage and greater interactivity with Vortex weather data by allowing for “hyper local” weather information when viewers need it, Ms. Maynard said. Stations do not need to be current WSI customers to deploy it, she added.
Other new AccuWeather products include a wireless subscription service that allows a TV station to send branded weather information to a viewer’s cell phone. “It’s a way to take the investment you’ve made in broadcast and gain revenue in the wireless,” Mr. Rainey said.
AccuWeather has also fine-tuned its flagship Galileo weather graphics product to provide new types of graphics, faster rendering and automatic updating that allows for up-to-the-second weather information during severe weather situations.
On the Web, AccuWeather plans to serve up “Weather Host,” a slick computer animation of a station’s weathercaster delivering the forecast online. “It’s a great way to keep the brand in front of viewers even when they are away from the TV set,” Mr. Rainey said.
Weather Central will showcase its online product Live Online, a desktop weather alert with a station’s logo built into it, powered by Weather Central-owned MyWeather.
Weather Data entered the broadcast market recently, building on its expertise providing weather tools for businesses. Its Storm Hawk is a new handheld device that looks like a PDA and displays information on high winds, temperatures, lightning, radar and storm warnings.
The device can be used to alert stations to severe weather situations that would necessitate not raising the mast on their satellite trucks. It can also help the meteorologist get in the safest position to cover a dangerous weather story like a tornado, said Mike Smith, CEO of Weather Data.
Finally, Vizrt has updated its real-time 3-D weather software, Vizweather, to automatically display weather data, such as temperature, wind speeds and direction, weather symbols, 3-D maps and radar maps with corresponding graphic elements in real time. Weathercasters can edit and control the broadcast from a “dedicated control system” and will no longer need to edit the separate graphic elements such as temperature or wind speed.