The forecast for the recently re-christened Weather Co. is sunny skies and growing revenue, thanks to digital. The firm that used to be called the Weather Channel has seen a rapid change in its future: More folks are eyeing their weather reports via the digital Weather Channel app than watching on TV.
It's close, but the trend is clear.
The app for smartphones and tablets "brought in new people and gave people access when they were at work or not close to the TV screen," says Weather CEO David Kenny. "It expanded our market."
Weather's app has seen more than 105 million downloads for smartphones and tablets. The TV channel is in more than 100 million TV homes and averages 13.5 million viewers daily, according to Nielsen. The Weather.com Web site drew 102 million visitors worldwide in January, says Weather, with 1.3 billion page views.
Weather, which is owned by NBCUniversal and two private-equity firms, Bain Capital and Blackstone, brought in Kenny in January 2012 to focus more heavily on digital. (The private company doesn't release financials.)
Things in Weather Land were "moving a little slow," Kenny says. "My goal is to make it move faster."
The first order was changing the moniker. "The old name started defining us as a channel instead of the weather," he says. "I wanted us to understand that the mission and purpose was broader."
Weather laid off 7% of its workforce last fall, about 75 employees. The company currently has 1,200 employees.
Meanwhile, the increased interest in serving the mobile audience has changed the way weather is reported. It comes down to, again, speed.
"When you're on a mobile device, people expect the weather to be absolutely up to date and the forecast to be in real time," says Kenny. "It used to be we had a few hours of leeway, so we had to speed everything up for mobile."
At the same time, TV weather is now "more in-depth. People come to the TV for the depth they don't get on a mobile device."
Television advertising revenue still constitutes 50% of total ad revenue, "but the digital business is growing faster," says Kenny. He expects revenue from digital to overtake revenue from analog this year.
Weather is still one of the most popular forms of news programming, says Mike Vorhaus, president of research firm Magid Advisors. "The utility function of weather will continue to be digital, but as breaking news the excitement about weather events will continue to be covered on TV." He expects tablet ownership to double in the next two years, and for Weather to be well situated. "You'll see a lot more video in the Weather app. Video usage on tablets is much higher than on smartphones." (continued...)
© 2013 USA TODAY under contract with MarketWatch. All rights reserved.