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KRNV’s ‘Weather Plus’ a harbinger of broadcasting future

John Seelmeyer

The “Weather Plus” service that Reno’s KRNV News 4 launched this week in partnership with NBC looks like a tool to battle The Weather Channel.

More important for the future of broadcasting, however, the 50-50 joint venture between the network and its affiliates is one of the first of a new breed of programming made possible by the industry’s transition to digital broadcasts.

The content is fairly straightforward: Live video and graphics provide national and local weather reports,with local reports assigned to six minutes out of every 15-minute cycle.

While the national reports are running and even while commercials are airing an “L”-shaped bar around the left and bottom sides of the screen carries local conditions and forecasts.

The focus on local information presents a challenge for the three-person weather team at KRNV, said Mary Beth Farrell, the station’s manager.

She said the station plans to update its video segments every two or three hours with new forecasts from meteorologist Jeff Thompson and forecasters Dave Finley and Amanda Sanchez.

And Farrell said the station upgraded its meteorology office in anticipation of launching the new service.

“We’re really dedicated to it,” she said.”In this market,weather is so important to people.”

For the KRNV,Weather Plus also provides a new marketing opportunity.

Farrell said the station’s sales force is targeting advertisers ranging from auto dealers to retailers who sell outdoors sporting goods.

The sales pitch:Weather broadcasts deliver the 25-54 demographic, viewers watch local weather five to eight times a week, and they’re active in everything from outdoor recreation to international travel.

The Weather Plus service is the first national digital broadcast service to be rolled out as the Federal Communications Commission has dictated that broadcasters move toward all-digital delivery by the end of 2006.

Along with movie-quality pictures and sound, the digital age of television will allow broadcasters to deliver significantly more programming, splitting their signal into several distinct streams.

In northern Nevada,Weather Plus will be delivered on digital cable channel 224, broadcast channel 4.3 and analog channel 14.

Nationally,Weather Plus rolled out last November.

In Nevada, KVBC Channel 3 in Las Vegas owned, like KRNV, by Sunbelt Communications Co. also is rolling out the new service this week.