Weather Channel's Highly Successful Mobile App Is Destroying Its Highly Successful Cable Channel

The Weather Channel is in a contract dispute with DirecTV that underlines just how vulnerable some cable TV channels are to mobile apps that provide similar need-to-know content.

DirecTV wants Weather Channel to take a 20% cut in the fees it pays to carry Weather Channel, in part because Weather Channel’s audience has fallen 19% to 214,000 since 2011, according to Nielsen. DTV has blacked out the channel since Monday night.

The TV audience decline has come at the same time Weather Channel’s mobile app has exploded in popularity. Because the app does something useful everyday, it’s one of the few apps people download, use, and don’t delete when they’re bored of it. It was the 10th most popular free iPad app last year. More than 100 million people have downloaded it across all devices.

What’s happening, obviously, is that people are changing their habits: They’re checking the weather on their phones, and not the TV. It’s hard to see Weather Channel reversing that trend, and indeed the station has changed much of its formatting from a 24/7 news cycle with anchors and correspondents to more drama-documentaries, such as “Hawaii Air Rescue.”

The channel still gets viewer spikes during big storms, the WSJ noted:

David Kenny, chief executive of the channel’s parent, Weather Co., disagrees [with DTV’s demand]. “At the time of severe weather, TV is still where people go,” he says. DirecTV’s request for a “huge” fee reduction “didn’t make sense, and we couldn’t be the same service” if it was implemented, he added.

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