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Weather Channel owner “honored” to compete with Murdoch as Fox News enters weather space

Fox News Media is preparing to enter the weather space for the first time with its quickly approaching launch of Fox Weather on Monday, the Associated Press reported. Though the arrival of Fox Weather is slated to add another competitor to the weather scene, the owner of The Weather Channel said that it was an “honor” to go up against media tycoon Rupert Murdoch.

The Murdoch family owns the Fox Corporation, the parent organization of Fox News. Fox Weather, a free streaming service that is expected to be most frequently accessed on mobile devices, will become the latest brand in a string of subsidiaries.

Byron Allen, who owns The Weather Channel, voiced excitement at the prospect of seeing his company pitted against Murdoch’s new channel, the AP reported. He said that he would be “disappointed” if Murdoch didn’t enter the space eventually, adding that those at the Weather Channel “certainly don’t mind the competition.”

“I’m just a kid from Detroit pinching myself, to be in competition with Rupert Murdoch, one of the greatest media moguls of all time,” Allen said. “That’s an honor for me.”

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Fox News Media is preparing to enter the weather space for the first time with its quickly approaching launch of Fox Weather on Monday. Co-anchor and meteorologist Jason Frazer rehearses on the Fox Weather set at News Corporation headquarters in New York, October 20.
Richard Drew/AP Photo

In preparation for the Monday start, Fox has been building a staff, plucking personnel from The Weather Channel and markets in New York, Houston, Phoenix, Miami, Charlotte, North Carolina, and elsewhere.

Advances in weather technology and interest created by climate change and more powerful storms have made weather news a popular area in which to invest, experts said.

“It’s all we talk about,” said Sharri Berg, Fox Weather president. “We might as well build a platform for it.”

Fox Weather is moving into a market dominated by long-time players like The Weather Channel and AccuWeather—both of whom have been busy building their own new products—as well as aggressive niche players.

When Berg scrolls through weather apps, she said she sees many specialty services that concentrate on things like surf conditions or wind. Besides convenience and clarity, Berg said one of Fox’s chief selling points will be offering a single destination for people to get many things—local forecasts (with 3-D radar), severe weather warnings, weather-related news stories and a video stream that operates like a traditional TV network.

“It’s not so much reinventing the way you tell the weather story, it’s just improving upon it,” said Steve Baron, Fox Weather senior vice president for digital products and strategy.

The Weather Channel next year is introducing subscription-based streaming services so people who have abandoned cable will have access to their programming. It will also launch a Spanish-language streaming service.

Allen pointed to consumer surveys that rate The Weather Channel highly as a source of information. “They know we are reliable and trusted,” he said. “You don’t get that overnight. It is earned.”

Similarly, Jonathan Porter, senior vice president and meteorologist at AccuWeather, pointed to the precise forecasting services the company has built over many years that are provided to consumers and businesses—even to many Fox-owned television stations.

“Fox will have to demonstrate that they can compensate for not having all of these capabilities when they launch,” Porter said.

Some of the Fox News Media products—like the Fox Business Network and Fox Nation streaming service—are ideologically comfortable for viewers of the main Fox News Channel. That raises the question of whether the same would be true of Fox Weather. While executives at both The Weather Channel and AccuWeather stressed that their services are paying attention to the impact of climate change on the world’s weather, several Fox News commentators have expressed skepticism about the subject.

“We’re not debating or ignoring it,” Berg said. “It’s part of how we live now. We’ll be translating it and basing it on science and data, that is what we are focused on. This is a 100 percent pure weather product and weather-centric focused platform.”

In addition to more powerful storms and bigger wildfires, the science of forecasting has also changed. Newly robust computer technology has greatly improved forecasting ability, and experts said this has also fueled interest among consumers.

AccuWeather, for example, introduced a MinuteCast service in 2016, and has steadily improved upon it since, offering very precise forecasts, for example, of when it might start raining on one side of town. There’s no way a similar service could have operated two decades ago, Porter said.

Along with technology, Berg said she believed Fox is building a weather news team second to none.

“I think Fox Weather is entering the weather space at the right time, and I think we’re building it on the right platform,” she said.

Fox to Launch Weather Channel
Fox Weather, a free streaming service and app, will launch on Monday. Co-anchors Jason Frazer, from left, Britta Merwin, and Stephen Morgan rehearse on the Fox Weather set at News Corporation headquarters in New York, October 20.
Richard Drew/AP Photo

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