What it’s Like Working at a Popular Cable TV Network

executive producer weather channel

87.5% of Americans with cable TV have the Weather Channel, making it the cable network with the greatest reach

Quick – name the cable network that is in the most homes in America.

CNN? ESPN? E!?

Wrong wrong and wrong. Go on.

Disney? MTV? Fox News?

Still wrong.

87.5% of the people in America with cable TV in their home have The Weather Channel, making it the most reached cable network in America. So what is it about this niche network that makes it more important to the american people than news, sports or even re-runs of Full House?

“The Weather Channel is like that warm wool blanket you pull out a few times every winter,” concludes Peter Schwartz former Executive Producer at The Weather Channel. “You know its always there if you need it.

“When its sunny and 70s and everything’s hunky-dory that’s awesome.  But when threatening weather is on the horizon, The Weather Channel is always there as a valuable resource.  It’s also kind of like insurance.  You always have to have it to be on the safe side because when you really need it, you really need it.”

After nearly a decade working in Sports television, Schwartz transitioned to The Weather Channel, and the difference might not be as great as you think.

“Sports is mostly about data: scores, stats, standings, records,”adds Schwartz.  “Same with weather: temperatures, rain/snow totals, wind speeds, historical data.  It’s what you do with the data and information that sets you apart.”

For more on what it’s like working at The Weather Channel, here’s more with Peter Schwartz.

Explain your daily role as and Executive Producer at The Weather Channel.

Schwartz: Executive Producers are the content drivers, the ones who determines how rundowns are built, where resources such as live crews, reporters, writers, even graphic designers are allocated, and what happens next.

weather channel executive producer jobs

Media executive Peter Schwartz was able to shift seamlessly from sports to weather, proving they might not be as different as you think

Executive Producers steer the ship and must always be thinking about next, tomorrow, and always have a contingency plan.  As the morning’s show moves into cruise control, it’s time to shift focus to the next day or to other project that require check-ins and adjustments.

Technology has made weather information available to anyone at any time – with that in mind, how has the Weather Channel shifted its content strategy to remain relevant?

Schwartz: This is a big challenge as weather forecasting is becoming a commodity, available through many providers via web, mobile or TV.  The Weather Channel’s differentiation is in its expertise.

When significant weather impacts you, you want to go where you know you’ll get the most comprehensive coverage, from the basic forecast to the unique perspective and forecasting only available through The Weather Channel.  It goes beyond merely producing the content—how is it being marketed and distributed so consumers can understand and appreciate the difference?

What are the three most important skills that someone who wants to work in television needs to have in today’s job market?

Schwartz: Enthusiasm and passion.  The hours and days are not easy and resources aren’t what they used to be.  So, you really have to love it to enjoy your life.

Creativity and resourcefulness.  Newsrooms aren’t staffed the way they used to be. How can you make the most with what you’ve got?

Expansive skillset.  Today’s job market is much more muddied than it used to be.  Those who can multi-task or excel in a variety of areas will be of greater value to an employer.

My advice: if you don’t know it, learn it, or at least know how it works.  This especially goes for things that you cross every day.

entertainment careers in television

You’ve worked in sports television and now in weather – what are the biggest differences on a day to day basis?

Schwartz: Sports are scheduled today, tomorrow, next month, next year, even 10+ years from now in terms of host cities for Olympics and World Cups.  However, weather is completely opposite.

Even if we know there will be a tornado threat, we have no idea where it will happen.  We have to be prepared for anything to happen anywhere in a region that could range from a few counties to a few states.  In sports, scheduled events only happen where the events take place.  Weather’s stadium is not a fixed place, which means you have to be able to get to remote areas really quickly.

buffalo snow storm weather channel ratings

Difficult weather makes for great ratings, and sometimes a conflict of conscience

Difficult weather makes for good television, but also can lead to tragic results; do you ever feel conflicted during coverage?

Schwartz: All the time.  It’s very difficult to root for good ratings. That usually means people’s lives are in danger.

We flip that around however and recognize extra importance in our jobs—we have the ability to go beyond forecasting dangerous storms but also preparing our audience what to do before, during and after a dangerous event.

I’m sure you have interns come and go at the Weather Channel – what advice to you try to impart on them?

Schwartz: Interns should use the experience to determine if this is really what they want to do.  It’s also an opportunity to gain an understanding how a newsroom works.

I’m not sure there’s a better environment for someone to acquire organizational and communication skills.

The Weather Channel does much more than just provide a 5-day forecast in major cities – you also handle the news surrounding weather – how important of a discussion is climate change?

Schwartz: The importance of climate change cannot be overemphasized.  It will change the way we live.  The more the current and next generation learn about it, the more that can be done to alleviate the pressure human place on the environment.

More to the point, this is not a political issue.

Democrats and Republicans might campaign for or against policies surrounding it, but the data and proof are incontrovertible.  Global Warming and Climate Change are happening. Science has proved that.  Politicians can ignore it, but citizens can’t.

Neither can The Weather Channel, which talks about climate change through the prism of weather, leaving the politics out of it.

naming winter storms on the weather channel

When the Weather Channel decided to start naming winter storms, it was Peter Schwartz’s recommended names that made the cut

The Weather Channel started naming winter storms, much like hurricanes, and you’ve had some great names like Brutus, Magnus and Gandolf… please tell me you get to sit in a conference room and make a pitch for a certain name…

Schwartz: Better than that, I CAME UP WITH THE LIST!!! No joke.  When we talked about naming winter storms, we had a small group on an email chain brainstorming what these names would be.  First I started with animals, then moved to colors, then emailed “Athena, Brutus, Caesar” to a Senior Manager and he said to keep going…

Those were the first 3 names the first year when most of my initial list was used!

Then a Latin class in Bozeman, MT contacted the Weather Channel and they came up with a 6-year list and after the first year of mostly my names, we’ve been using modified versions of their list.

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About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the broadcast media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for WorkinSports.com & WorkinEntertainment.com.

Recently Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, you should.

Comments

  1. I want a job on hum or ary channel in karachi

  2. I like to Be on TV shows or in starred in Action movies Like Bad Boys 3.co-host the Teen Choice Awards or one Host The Kid’s Choice Award’s if get in to my dream is film or music and my heart say photography ?

  3. Rebecca says:

    Hi Brian,

    What would you recommend as first steps to finding (and landing) a job at a network out of state? I have a degree in Broadcast News and have been working in Marketing for a year and a half but I’m still having trouble finding and hearing back from potential employers.

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