Fox News hopes round-the-clock weather coverage will brighten the outlook

Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Channel, which revolutionized the wire landscape through its tub-thumping pondetry in the 1990s, focused on another hot topic: weather.

Fox News will launch a new app on Monday to stream live 24-hour weather programming.

As extreme flooding, devastating hurricanes, uncontrolled wildfires and blizzards hit the United States last year, the media business is fighting an unlikely battle, with companies betting that programming about climate disasters will attract viewers.

Weather effort Lachlan Murdoch, Fox’s chief executive who invested $ 10 million in the push, competed more directly with his brother James, who last year denounced his family’s news assets for spreading false suspicions about climate change due to deadly bushfires across Australia.

James and Katherine Murdoch recently pledged millions of dollars for a report on climate change in the Associated Press, according to people familiar with the matter.

With Donald Trump stepping down from the office, the news cycle has calmed down, and Fox News, CNN and MSNBC are the only news networks that have lost audience this year. Television alone is also under existential pressure, as more Americans cancel their pay-TV packages each year in favor of streaming.

Fox News Television Control Room in New York © Jack Dejan / Bloomberg

As the weather has become increasingly unpleasant, Byron Allen, owner of the Weather Channel, says American listeners flocked to his network for minute-to-minute updates during storms like Hurricane Eder.

“When you see your car floating on the street in the middle of downtown Manhattan, it’s reached a point where you can’t argue with it,” said Allen, who bought Weather Channel in 2018 for 300 million.

“Rupert Murdoch is one of the greatest media moguls of all time. I’ve read everything about him and I’ve studied all his steps,” Allen added. “I would be disappointed if he didn’t come to the weather news business.”

Fox News has dedicated more than 120 meteorologists to its weather unit and has invested in a shiny new studio at its Manhattan headquarters, where the ceiling will change color with the weather, turning red during serious events. The app, which will be free and monetized, offers users 3D radar to zoom in on real-time footage of storms, along with the feature to track forecasts for future events like weddings or birthdays.

Some observers question whether Fox News will face a credibility issue. Some of the biggest stars on the network have repeatedly expressed doubts about the seriousness of climate change. Host Tucker Carlson said last year that the threat of climate change is a liberal innovation, such as “systematic racism in the sky”. He claims that “there is no evidence” that rising global temperatures have caused terrible wildfires on the US west coast.

“We present the weather without hype or hyperbole,” says Jonathan Porter, chief meteorologist at Aquador, a personal forecaster. “We have seen over the decades that many companies come to the weather and are not successful. It takes a special infrastructure built on science. ”

Brian Weiser, head of business intelligence at advertising agency GroupM, said this more clearly. “Credibility will be a big issue,” he said. “Even though they take a line of‘ both sides get a voice ’, it is politicized. There is an exact answer to the scientific consensus on what the weather is. ”

Sherry Berg, who heads Fox Weather, said the service would “report information” and “ignore” climate change.

Fox’s weather streaming service is Lachlan Murdoch’s latest investment in a digital future. Rupert Murdoch’s eldest son previously led the company’s streaming service Tubi in a 440m acquisition, as well as leading a Fox News-branded streaming service called Fox Nation.

When Fox Nation was first launched, the service focused on its bread and butter news and opinion programming, including shows. A-PC. But in recent months the company has tried to expand its reach towards general entertainment, including real crime shows and the Clint Eastwood film.

“[Fox News] More than a news brand. It’s a lifestyle brand, “said Jason Clarman, who worked at Fox News Launch in the 1990s and is now president of Fox Nation. “The wider you go, the bigger the opportunity.” Analyst MoffettNathanson estimates that Fox Nation has between 1m and 1.2m of customers.

With the advent of Hollywood online, the best dramas and comedies are now available mainly on streaming services, not on television. But live news and sports still attract millions of TV viewers, bringing in billions of dollars for companies like Fox.

These groups are trying to prepare their profitable television channels for the future without cannibalism. “I don’t think streaming news can ever be financially in the form of a cable bundle. They have to be on TV as long as it exists, ”said Rich Greenfield, partner at Media Consultancy, Lightshed.

Clarman believes that “there will always be an audience for news on television”.

“It’s about seeing what will evolve and change,” he said. “We’re looking around the corner.”

Additional reporting by James Fontanella-Khan in New York

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