The fearsome and punishing effects from Hurricane Sandy along the east coast the past few days has contributed to a series of record-breaking events across The Weather Company's cable and digital properties. In particular, The Weather Channel's parent company tells AdExchanger that on Friday, the amount of ad dollars coming in from programmatic channels exceeded any other day since it started accepting such buys earlier this year.
While Global Chief Revenue Officer Curt Hecht said that the company wouldn't be releasing specific revenue figures related to programmatic buys it has received, he did say that activity reflects the new strategies and backgrounds that Hecht, the architect of Publicis Group’s digital buying and trading desk hub, the VivaKi Nerve Center, and CEO David Kenny, his former VivaKi colleague, have brought into The Weather Company's sales operations.
"We set a record on Friday in terms of programmatic revenue and since landfall is happening right now, I assume that trend will continue through the duration of the storm," Hecht told AdExchanger. "Similarly, our video, mobile revenue via programmatic is like nothing we’ve seen to date. Part of it is embracing the exchange marketplace and knowing how to optimize against it. Part of it is the amount of inventory based on the audience flow."
Craig Schinn, VP, Reporting & Analytics for Accordant Media, confirmed the trends that The Weather Company is seeing with a regard to programmatic buying. "Through the data we have so far today, RTB impressions are up 13 percent vs. the average Monday (same hours) in the prior month," he said. "This is well beyond the normal growth of RTB, and indicative that Frankenstorm is driving massive spikes in internet usage, and opportunities within RTB."
Meanwhile Media6Degrees reports ad impressions on Weather.com on Sunday were up 50x over the previous Sunday. (Accuweather.com impressions were up a more modest 5x). But it said CPM's were relatively flat on both pubs. And on the same day, independent trading desk Digilant measured a 4x increase in ad volume on domains including the word "weather."
John Slade, SVP of Product Management at Rubicon Project, told us that Rubicon's marketplace of premium inventory has seen significant shifts in advertiser spend that are likely attributable to the marketer's interest in reaching audiences interested in or affected by Hurricane Sandy. Naturally, sites in the "news" category are in high demand from audiences and the advertisers who want to buy them.
"As you know, the traffic increases combined with the advertiser spend shifts can result in immediate revenue opportunities for publishers," Slade said. "However, it's important to remember those opportunities are not without risk, as publishers need to be very sensitive with regard to the types of ads that run on their sites in highly sensitive times. A poorly placed ad, such as an ad promoting tourism in Atlantic City or an ad promoting flood insurance, could easily damage a publisher's reputation with its consumers. Therefore, it's important for publishers who may have advertising opportunities related to Sandy to ensure they are working with a technology partner who can ensure they are helping protect their brand from ads that could be found offensive in these particular times."
The amount of online activity and focus on portable devices and digital platforms like social media led The Weather Channel to rebrand as The Weather Company a few weeks ago. But the relationship between the company and its advertisers and viewers, especially those who turn to the cable channel and its mobile and web-based versions, is what appears to be coming together at this moment. Being a known quantity that tends to specialize covering events like Hurricane Sandy also helps The Weather Company not overplay the disaster and alienate consumers.
Among the content decisions The Weather Company made in advance of the storm was to live-stream its cable network's video on YouTube for the first time. This afternoon, a live feed was launched on Yahoo's homepage. Advertisers were ready for the moment, just as The Weather Company was ready with a fuller multi-platform strategy. On top of the mobile app and web-usage that has been growing, with a great deal of thanks from its My Friend's Weather, which is a collaboration between The Weather Company and Facebook. The social media tool uses Facebook Connect to bring Weather.com users to Facebook, so the social network's members can share info about their own meteorological situation.
Here's some stats The Weather Company supplied to us:
- Live stream – 5MM total live video stream starts between The Weather Company's live stream on weather.com, YouTube & wunderground.com; 165k concurrent users (that’s almost the same as the network on a typical day), and over 1.2MM hours streamed -- 50 percent of those traffic numbers are occurring on weather.com, the other 50 percent are on YouTube.
- TV – On TWC, Saturday’s preliminary time period data for P25-54/Total Day points to a 500%+ gain over quarter-to-date levels.
- weather.com - Today (Monday) is shaping up to be the largest in history on weather.com. As of 7pm on Monday, the site has registered 20oMM pageviews. The site's previous record was scored during a colossal snowstorm in Feb. 2011 with 144MM. The site was on pace to hit 300MM by late Monday night. On Sunday, weather.com saw 105MM page views (the fifth highest page view ever) and 40MM video streams (#1 all-time video day). Top 10 day for daily visits and visitors (21MM and 14MM, respectively)
- Mobile web – #2 all-time page view day with 16.3 million (behind last year’s “Colossal storm” on 2/1/11 – 17 million). As we saw with Joplin and Tuscaloosa last year, mobile activity on web and apps is likely to pick-up further if there are power outages.
- Mobile and tablet apps – #1 all-time day for page views (109 million page views) and #1 all-time day for video starts (1.6 million video starts) across mobile and tablet apps combined
- YouTube stats – Stream began Sunday evening, and it is a homepage spotlight on YouTube in the U.S. As of this morning, there had been 1MM playback starts, 20,000 peak concurrent users, 141,000+ hours streamed with an average view time of 8.5 minutes. I just checked it, and there have been almost 7 million video views – and 65,000 viewers are watching it live right now.
- My Friends’ Weather on weather.com: As of this morning (Monday) – 80,000+ authenticated users (users who have signed in through Facebook on weather.com to see who of their friends are affected by the storm). Uptick started Wednesday and really took off on Friday – new authenticated users by day saw three successive record highs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday
One other advantage The Weather Company has during a disaster like this is that each of its platforms reinforce usage of the other. In turn, that inspires advertisers to be ready in advance and increasingly, in real-time.
"In the cable upfront every year, there are marketers who know that these severe weather events are very important to their respective businesses," Hecht said. "Therefore, when something’s about to hit, they’re ready to go, they’re budgeted. That’s one variation that we see. That will typically be insurance, home improvement, retail and power supply companies like batteries and generators. They know us, we know them, as we’ve been around for 30 years."
For those that don’t want to commit and take it on the fly, programmatic buying is an easy option. Hecht wouldn't identify individual marketers buying programmatically, but he did say the marketers tended to be in the core categories mentioned above, with travel-related advertisers also buying in real-time.
"We’re pulling higher ratings right now as a result of the storm, so if those marketers want to deliver on their media plan, it’s a good opportunity to buy that audience that has shifted to us and away from their regular viewing habits," Hecht added. "On the digital side, if you go to Weather.com, you’ll see Traveler’s and Duracell wisely bought My Friend’s Weather. Both of them are benefiting from a record event in pageviews on our site and apps. What’s interesting here is Facebook and Weather Company coming together to provide the same level of public service that we have traditionally provided through cable TV."
Zach Rodgers contributed.Platforms | Curt Hecht | Facebook Connect | The Weather Channel | The Weather Company