BY: David Bauder
NEW YORK – The Weather Channel plans to show movies for the first time in its 27-year history and it’s easy to guess which one is leading off.
“The Perfect Storm,” of course.
The George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg movie about a horrific storm off the New England coast will air on Oct. 30, the 18th anniversary of the actual storm. Network executives had been thinking about adding movies, and the timing proved too good to pass up, said Geoffrey Darby, the network’s chief programmer.
The network in recent years gradually slipped in longer programming, including a morning show hosted by Al Roker, to complement its constantly rotating forecasts.
“The Perfect Storm” begins a four-week period in which The Weather Channel will try some Friday night movies.
The films are either weather-themed or have plots in which weather plays a key role, Darby said. Meteorologist Jennifer Carfagno will host movie night and offer commentary.
Other movies include the documentary “March of the Penguins,” the thriller “Deep Blue Sea” and “Misery,” for which Kathy Bates won an Academy Award.
The weather angle is pretty clear in “The Perfect Storm,” but “Misery”? Darby noted the nightmare endured by James Caan’s character begins with a blinding snowstorm.
For The Weather Channel, the risk lies in alienating its regular weather-obsessed viewers, who tune in for news of high pressure systems rather than high drama. The potential reward is that new fans will tune in, and they’ll stay on the station for a longer period, pleasing advertisers.
Darby said most viewers on Friday night aren’t interested in much more than the weekend forecast, and that will be updated on the screen six times an hour.
“It’s a way to respond to at least a significant portion of our audience that says, `Let’s expand the definition of weather,'” he said.
The idea predates NBC Universal’s purchase of The Weather Channel, Darby said. None of the first four movies are distributed by NBC Universal.
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