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In weather forecasting wars, opposites do attract

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Tess Vigeland: And now, Biff, let’s head on over to the weather center where Jackie is working to make sure we all have a beautiful day tomorrow. Jackie? Well, guys, we have big changes coming in the weather — a ridge of high pressure has pushed TV’s Weather Channel into a sunny acquisition of the online forecasting service Weather Underground.

If you’re under a dense fog advisory as to what this all means, here’s Marketplace’s Adriene Hill.


Adriene Hill: The Weather Channel is, if we’re being completely honest, weather entertainment. It’s weather light. But it wasn’t always that way.

Larry Gerbrandt is with the media research firm Media Valuation Partners.

Larry Gerbrandt: They’ve been expanding into longer-form programming in an effort to try to change the rating and the viewing dynamic.

Constant weather updates just didn’t make for television most people wanted to watch for any length of time. So The Weather Channel added shows like “Wake Up with Al” and “Pyros” — about people who blow stuff up. Their meteorologists are also pretty cute.

The Weather Underground, a website, is, well, nerdier weather, telegenic-ness not required.

Paul Knight: There certainly is a geekiness to those who use The Weather Underground, including myself.

Paul Knight is a climatologist at Penn State. He says Weather Underground users go to the site to look at specific weather data, the weather minutiae.

Knight: Whereas The Weather Channel tends to fix it up for you and make it more palatable.

Knight thinks it’s going to work out for both sides.

But the potential for culture clash has some Weather Underground users anxious. Among the comments on a post at Weather Underground about the sale: “sad day for the world of online weather” and “the beginning of the end.”

Dr. Jeff Masters, a founder of Weather Underground, says in a blog post the sale will help them create new products, and he promises the website and brand will continue to exist in its current form.

No pyros or blowing up needed.

I’m Adriene Hill for Marketplace.

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