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‘Storm’ System Offers Flexibility

Jul 8, 2007  •  Post A Comment

In the latest instance of cable programming going the broadcast route, the syndicated version of the Weather Channel’s popular “Storm Stories” is brewing to hit local stations for fall 2008.

Litton Entertainment has reached a deal to distribute the unscripted series, in which Mother Nature clashes with unsuspecting individuals, as both a strip and a stackable weekend programming block.

The series, which began its Weather Channel run in 2003, will be broken down from its original hourlong format into 143 half-hour episodes with the potential for additional production.

A unique aspect to the half-hour episodes of “Storm Stories” is that they can be customized for each affiliate, allowing them to tie in with their news departments via local weather and news updates. Local meteorologists are able to host the series via live cut-ins or stations can stay with national Weather Channel host Jim Cantore if they prefer.

“To be No. 1 in news, you’ve got to be No. 1 in weather,” said Dave Morgan, president and CEO of Litton Entertainment. “‘Storm Stories’ allows stations to expand their news brands in a number of different time periods. The series is perfect for stripping or stacking, and can work as counterprogramming against many other shows. It’s a strong, proven series pitting nature against humans from which real heroes emerge.”

During its successful run on the Weather Channel, “Storm Stories” proved to be a ratings asset, increasing the channel’s household ratings by 81 percent and ratings among adults 25 to 54 by 67 percent over previous prime-time programming, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Among the memorable episodes that will be part of the package are “The Perfect Storm,” the story that spawned a bestseller and a Hollywood movie; the story of a national park ranger who refused to give up on finding a companion buried by an avalanche; and the reunion of a mother and her baby, whom she tried to protect beneath a mattress during a tornado until the roof was torn off and they were thrown in opposite directions.

Each episode offers practical safety and preparation tips that can help save lives.

“‘Storm Stories’ has been phenomenally popular with our audience since we launched the series,” said Terry Connelly, senior VP of programming and production at the Weather Channel. “This is the Weather Channel’s first foray into domestic syndication, and we are excited that Litton Entertainment will be bringing ‘Storm Stories’ to new audiences.”

The acquisition by Litton marks the second off-cable series the distributor has acquired heading into selling season for fall 2008. The syndicator previously acquired relationship dating series “Date My Mom,” which had a strong run on MTV. These decisions have become increasingly popular as stations seek out new content for the airwaves, from “Reno 911!” and “Chappelle’s Show,” which will debut this fall, to “Sex and the City” and “South Park.”

“The trend of going and looking for specific programming opportunities on cable is inevitable given the amount of original product being produced across the cable spectrum,” said Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming for Katz Media. “We are likely still at the beginning of an ongoing trend. In terms of ‘Storm Stories’ itself, there always seems to be the availability of some time periods for different and unique programming, and ‘Storm Stories’ is very different from what’s on broadcast right now.”

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