Sunshine or clouds ahead for The Weather Channel subscription service?

Allen Media Group’s The Weather Channel this week launched a direct-to-consumer subscription app featuring a livestream of its 24/7 weather news channel and a price point of $2.99 per month.

But how might the subscription-based weather-focused service fare? Analysts weighed in on some potential bright spots, as well as downsides, for the latest subscription streaming service.  

Livestream the way to go

Michael Greeson, founder of Aluma Insights, said the livestream of The Weather Channel’s linear network “is the way to go here” as TWC already has a free on-demand app with radar and forecasts, along with a few video recordings.

“Accuweather already beat TWC to the livestreaming weather marketplace,” Greeson told Fierce, noting it offers a free 24/7 live streaming service called Accuweather Now, which set the bar. “To introduce anything other than 24/7 livestreaming would be a letdown.”

Another player in the weather space is Fox, who joined the scene late last year with its free ad-supported Fox Weather streaming service, announced in September.

“However, free availability appears available limited to Fox News Media digital properties,” he noted, including its Fox Now TV Everywhere app. Fox Weather has plans to be embedded in Fox-owned FAST aggregator Tubi, but Greeson pointed out that the company has not expressed any plans to launch a CTV app.

“In fact, it appears TWC is the only service with a livestreaming CTV app at this time,” Greeson said.

Fox Weather significantly expanded its distribution footprint earlier this year, adding YouTube TV, Amazon News, The Roku Channel, fuboTV and Xumo as streaming partners in February. For TWC, it’s first available on Amazon Fire TV and Android TV. It will soon be coming to Roku, Samsung Smart TV, Vizio, and Comcast’s Xfinity Flex.

Appetite to pay for weather?

One challenge The Weather Channel faces is the same that short-lived and quickly shuttered CNN+ subscription service faced, in that “consumers have traditionally been reluctant to pay for news or weather-related content, particularly with several free options available,” said Interpret VP Brett Sappington.

CNN+ launched in late March and Warner Bros. Discovery pulled the plug less than a month later, a decision made on the heels of WarnerMedia and Discovery completing their merger. CNN+ didn’t attract a huge audience out of the gate, with reports of fewer than 10,000 daily viewers.

Sappington noted that mobile weather apps and local broadcasters both already offer current information on the weather as well as forecasts, often for free.

The Weather Channel had previously disclosed plans to launch a DTC subscription service priced at $4.99, but that no longer appears to be the case. Greeson said perhaps leadership saw what happened to CNN+ and decided to be a little more cautious on pricing. CNN+ debuted charging $5.99 per month or $59.99 per year.

“But $2.99/month is an attractive price point to get the cable equivalent on streaming,” Greeson commented, regarding TWC.

TV[R]EV lead analyst Alan Wolk pointed out that other options for weather might not necessarily crowd out a livestreaming app option for TWC, saying that “internet-based and smartphone app-based weather has been available for years but had not affected TWC’s linear product.”

As to the interest, Wolk thinks the company has likely done some research and “there are enough people interested in all things weather-related to make it worthwhile.”

“I suspect the audience are ‘weather fanatics’ and not just someone looking to see whether to take an umbrella with them,” Wolk told Fierce.

He also noted that the Fox Weather app seems to be successful and TWC brings more name recognition, “though it is possible that Fox News’s devoted viewership trusts Fox’s Weather channel not to be fake news.”

However, Sappington’s view is that as a subscription streaming service, The Weather Channel would be a niche player, but possibly without a dedicated niche audience to go with it.

“While services offering anime, horror, or ethnic-specific content may have passionate fans willing to pay, how many consumers are passionate enough about weather content to subscribe?” he questioned.

Last year Allen Byron, founder and CEO of Allen Media Group, hopes were quite high for a DTC version of The Weather Channel, with his company projecting the service would accumulate 30 million subscribers within its first five years.

Streaming needs unique content

Another area where Sappington thinks The Weather Channel subscription service could struggle similar to CNN+ is need-to-watch content, especially outside of the weather-focused network livestream.

“For The Weather Channel, or any streaming service to be successful, it needs to have an adequate amount of unique, in-demand content that will drive users to subscribe and keep them as paying customers,” Sappington said.

CNN+ developed original content with well-known news personalities but still wasn’t able to find that key series that drove purchases, he continued.

Last July when it announced plans for a subscription streaming service, The Weather Channel indicated the offering could incorporate content from other Allen Media Group assets (such as Pets.TV, Comedy.TV, Recipe.TV, and others).

While TWC could potentially integrate other Bryon Allen holdings Sappington said the question then becomes consumer expectations and if people would frequent a weather-branded service to watch non-weather-related content.

“Content from The Weather Channel may be more valuable as a boost to other streaming services, adding weather content as a value-added feature,” he said.

TWC said the streaming app will offer an on-demand library of original Weather Channel programming, but no word on other content. Fierce reached out to The Weather Channel but had not heard back as of publication.

Allen Media Group also owns Local Now, a free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) service that positions itself as the go-to service for local content with more than 450 channels and localized content in over 225 U.S. markets.