The Weather Channel is forecasting something cool. The struggling cable network jumped onto Periscope, Twitter’s live streaming video app, Thursday afternoon.
The video feed, accessible via the Periscope app and browser, covered an afternoon editorial meeting to plan the night’s coverage for “Weather Underground,” The Weather Channel’s weeknight show from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. EDT. Led by host Mike Bettes, the meeting involved reviewing and finalizing the schedule.
Not everything was so serious though. The stream started with Bettes in a red poncho and lab goggles, and his team joked that he looked like a “mad scientist.” In clear view on the stream, the studio featured plastic cups aligned in a pyramid formation with ping-pong balls on top as well as candy and other props.
“We’re kind of like junior high schoolers. We just make fun of everyone constantly,” Bettes said on the stream.
Launched in August, the two-hour live program is a new initiative for The Weather Channel, following several changes the company has made. This month, the network announced layoffs and said it would be canceling its segments with “Good Morning America” and NBC’s “Today” and would focus more on live programming on its own network.
“In a world where everyone is chasing new original shows, we need to approach the world differently,” Weather Channel Television Group’s president Dave Shull wrote in a memo, according to the Los Angeles Times.
That new approach also includes more digital initiatives. Weather Underground has already embraced social media as a way to promote the show and get viewers involved. For each show, the channel polls viewers on three suggested topics to cover.
Periscope lets broadcasters see live comments from viewers overlaid on the screen. During the 15-minute stream, about 30 viewers were watching at once. Comments were sparse, however, and the broadcaster also chose not to call out and interact with any participants -- a feature that has become an influencer and brand obsession regarding Periscope and competitor Meerkat.
This video was not the channel’s first experiment with Periscope, and in prior segments, the anchors have engaged with viewers. Periscope launched on March 26, and The Weather Channel aired a question-and-answer session with meteorologist Ari Sarsalari on April 9. Since then, the channel has continued to host streams with members of the team.
The Weather Channel has been struggling to keep its viewership up. The network reached 89.3 million viewers last month, a 10.6% drop from August 2013. Since 2011, the channel’s subscriber base has fallen by 11.2 percent, the Wall Street Journal reported. The Journal noted that Comcast lowered its investment in the channel in July.
The digital approach may at least capture the eyes of some potential viewers, including the cord cutters who are armed with a smartphone. To launch its first stream, Weather Underground teamed up with Parachute TV, a Periscope account that has 4,333 followers and a lineup of daily shows.