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AOL Enhances Weather Offerings

Staff Writer
Published: 2004-08-25

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With hurricane season in full force and weather top of mind with Americans everywhere, America Online today announced a number of significant enhancements to its AOL Weather offerings.

These enhancements, available at AOL Keyword: Weather, are designed to bring both AOL for Broadband and AOL dial-up subscribers convenient access to an increased array of weather-related information, and are the result of a recent expansion of AOL's agreement with The Weather Channel, whose weather.com site ranks as the 11th largest in the U.S. (1)

Evidence points to the Internet as a critical source of weather-related information. In response to Hurricane Charley, both AOL and weather.com saw significant traffic surges. On Friday, August 13, AOL News' package on Hurricane Charley was viewed more than one million times, with live video of ABC News Now's coverage of the storm streamed nearly 350,000 times--traffic levels exceeding those seen during the Democratic National Convention. That week on AOL Search, searches for the term "hurricane" increased 20-fold. Likewise, weather.com set a record for daily pageviews on August 13--serving 66.4 million pageviews to 6.3 million unique users, according to the company's internal reports. The site began seeing traffic increases as early as August 11, with more than twice the number of average visitors and more than 1000 percent more video streams served than on a normal day.

Checking weather is among the top online activities of AOL members, ranking just behind e-mail, getting news updates and conducting research. (2) Weather also ranked among the top five growth categories online between April and May 2004. (3)

"Getting weather updates online is an extremely popular activity among our members and among the online population overall," said Carlos Silva, Senior Vice President, News and Sports for America Online. "These enhancements to AOL Weather will make it even easier for our members to be in-the know about the forecast in their area and wherever their travels take them."

"We're happy to be expanding our successful five-year relationship with America Online to be the provider of AOL's weather content," said Jody Fennell, vice president of business development for The Weather Channel Interactive. "This is a win-win for both companies--giving weather.com content even greater reach, and providing AOL's subscribers with unparalleled weather-related news and updates on-demand."

Highlights of the recent enhancements to AOL Weather include:

-- More local forecast video: AOL Weather now provides AOL for Broadband members in more than 100 cities on-demand, local meteorologist videos from The Weather Channel. These videos are now updated twice daily, increased from once daily.

-- Additional national and regional forecast video: New weather video available to AOL for Broadband subscribers includes Storm Watch, highlighting areas in the nation with storm warnings; Tropical Update, the forecast for tropical regions around the world; Weekly Planner, the national forecast for the week; Weekend Outlook, the national weekend forecast; and Travelwise, updates on travel conditions across the country.

-- Access via AOL.com: Coming soon, AOL for Broadband members will have the added convenience of accessing video from The Weather Channel while they're away from home or at work through AOL.com.

-- One-stop access to weather information: The enhanced AOL Weather provides a comprehensive weather destination, so members can find the information they're seeking within the AOL service, rather than being directed to outside sites. Weather information is also integrated throughout the AOL service in relevant areas such as AOL News and AOL CityGuide.

-- Expansion to additional U.S. and International services: Under the expanded agreement, The Weather Channel content will be made available to AOL Latino and AOL International services, including AOL Canada, AOL UK and AOL Latin America's services in Brazil and Mexico.

Shawn Hardin, Senior Vice President, Product & Programming, AOL for Broadband, added, "We've seen that among AOL for Broadband members, video from The Weather Channel ranks among the most popular of all the video we offer. The expansion of our agreement will make even more of this video available to our members, thus enhancing the value of AOL for Broadband in their daily lives."

These new offerings complement the existing suite of weather content available to AOL members, including weather forecasts for more than 98,000 national and international locations, updated five times a day. Specific weather resources include detailed 48-hour and seven-day forecasts, local and regional Doppler radar and satellite maps, and much more. AOL members can also access an array of weather content through mobile devices such as cellular phones, PDA's or pagers, including current conditions and five-day forecasts. AOL Weather ranks among the top online weather destinations, reaching more than 9 million unique visitors in July 2004. (3)

In addition, starting this week, Desktop Weather by The Weather Channel, the company's convenient desktop application, will be available at no charge through the Netscape 7.2 browser. The Weather Channel will also distribute a co-branded Netscape browser via weather.com and will promote the browser on-air.

(1) Source: Nielsen//NetRatings

(2) Source: Nielsen//NetRatings @plan, Summer 2004

(3) Source: comScore MediaMetrix

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