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May 19, 2008

The Weather Channel Uses HD Technology to Revolutionize TV Weather Presentation

Originator of 24-hour Weather on TV Now Sets New Standard for HD Weather

ATLANTA - On June 2, The Weather Channel will launch programming from its new facility, one year in the making and equipped to broadcast in pure High Definition format. Your Weather Today, seen weekdays 7-10 a.m. ET, and Evening Edition, seen weeknights 9 p.m.-3 a.m. ET, are the first two studio programs to be presented in the new format. Others will be added over the next several months until all studio programs of the network's 24/7 operation will be available in HD. 

The new HD programming will be transmitted in the 1080i HD format with a simulcast of the same programming for SD receivers.  Striking visual differences will be immediately noticeable to viewers as the result of all-new set designs, lighting, camera angles, and production techniques.  An HD video screen, as wide as a tennis court, will be the centerpiece for displaying all graphics, video shots, maps, radar, and reports from the field. 

Ever the Trailblazer

"The Weather Channel revolutionized how weather was presented when we launched in 1982 and we are about to do that once again in 2008," said Ray Ban, executive vice president of programming and technology at The Weather Channel.

"We are going to raise the bar with a next-generation display providing a more dramatic viewing experience.  Just as we introduced and grew around-the-clock weather, we now take ownership of a totally new way of presenting the weather.  Continuing our path of innovation, we plan to take our viewers forward with us into the HD era of weather presentation," he explained.

Features of the New HD Studio

Among the advances that will distinguish the HD programming at The Weather Channel is the 37-foot-long video screen, the largest available anywhere for real-time weather presentation.  On-camera meteorologists will accent their presentations with large-scale weather data images and video clips. 

The screen is so expansive that complementary graphics can be displayed at the same time.  For example, a satellite loop of a hurricane's path can be displayed beside a graphic "cone" projecting the possible areas where it could hit.  For HD viewers, all these graphics - including radar and satellite images - will be clearer and brighter.

The video screen itself displays all the images in HD; this is a big differentiator that will impact the way people understand and experience weather phenomena, according to Ban.  "We capture weather in a sharper, highly-resolved way and then we can zoom in to take viewers up close - to see the details of a hail shaft or to go inside a storm's rain band," he explained.

June 2 also marks the launch of a new generation of graphics on The Weather Channel that has been in development for over a year.  "With HD, all the images are more crisp, clear and colorful with more detail," noted Gus LaLone, vice president of programming and production. A team of more than 20 graphics designers and meteorologists collaborated to create new maps, images and descriptive elements to optimize HD's capability to show more detail and clarity.   

All Viewers Will See a Striking Difference

HD and SD viewers alike will realize they are being transported to a new place for viewing weather.  Starting with the first two programs launching June 2, the studio sets and set-ups will have entirely new looks.  Each program will appear distinctive due to a pinwheel arrangement in the studio design. At the center of studio is an ultramodern chrome-and-acrylic console which serves not only as an anchor desk but also as a working environment with which on-camera meteorologists can access vast supplies of weather data or graphics from several different systems. 

The console rotates 359 degrees to position the program hosts at sets on the studio's periphery, each designed to match the mood and pace of any particular period within the programming day.  Additional variety will be provided by the following:

  • Multiple video displays on seven different sets, each with its own standup location beside LCD HD monitors. 
  • An extensive mix of camera shots made possible by seven floor cameras plus a "jib" camera (that gives a swooping effect) and an overhead camera that circles the studio on a track.
  • Spectacular lighting design which includes backlighting from 850 fluorescent lights and lower bands of LED lighting to change the colors on the set to correspond with various dayparts.

Upon completion of the transition to the HD studio in 2008, almost all of the programming on the network will originate in the true HD format.   The network will have production and transmission technology in place to provide select field coverage of severe weather in HD starting with this hurricane season.  June 2 will mark the first HD shots from the field for the network.  Storm Tracker Jim Cantore will provide live shots which will be uplinked from Miami Beach via the TWC HD-equipped satellite truck.

Distribution of The Weather Channel HD

The Weather Channel has secured agreements for the carriage of its HD service with all six of the top six TV programming distributors - Charter Communications, Comcast Cable, Cox Cable, DirecTV and Echostar Communications, and Time Warner Cable.  All the major MSOs - as well as a large number of smaller cable companies - have begun launching The Weather Channel HD for HD customers in many markets across the United States.  Satellite companies DISH Network and DirecTV have also put The Weather Channel HD in their lineups.

The first HD programming on The Weather Channel launched last fall and was made up of long-form programs shot in HD.  From showing high-action sports video in Epic Conditions to the grandeur of U.S. icons visited on WeatherVentures, the programs showcase the ways the HD camera captures the drama and spectacle of weather. 

A Final Distinction

In addition to breaking new ground in the presentation of weather in HD, The Weather Channel established another important precedent by making its ground-up HD facility a "green" building.  Due to its commitment to be environmentally responsible, the company designed the facility, which adjoins the company's headquarters in Atlanta, to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) specifications for a silver (or possibly higher) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.


About The Weather Channel Companies
The Weather Channel companies (TWCC) are made up of The Weather Channel® television network, The Weather Channel digital properties, and WSI. The Weather Channel is based in Atlanta and is seen in more than 100 million U.S. households. TWCC also operates Weatherscan®, a 24-hour all-local weather network; The Weather Channel Radio Network; and The Weather Channel HD. The most popular source of weather news and information, TWCC properties reach 60 million monthly Web consumers (weather.com and Desktop) and 32 million monthly mobile users (mobile Web and applications) and offers the second most popular mobile app on all smartphones. WSI, headquartered in Andover, MA, primarily provides business-to-business weather services, particularly for the media, aviation, marine and energy sectors. TWCC is owned by a consortium made up of NBC Universal and the private equity firms The Blackstone Group and Bain Capital. For more information, visit www.weather.com/press.