CBS Chicago changes weather, traffic branding

WBBM, the CBS-owned station in Chicago has switched its weather and traffic branding to something that its arch rival once used years ago.

Starting Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, WBBM began using the branding “First Alert Weather” and “First Alert Traffic.”

The ‘First Alert Traffic’ stinger introduced January 2022.

The move comes less than two years after the station rebranded as “Realtime Weather” and “Realtime Traffic” in February 2020. Both options included the option to label some reports with an “alert” tag.

From 2014 to 2017, ABC-owned WLS used the “First Alert” weather branding, when it switched to using the AccuWeather name (prior to adopting the name as its primary weather branding, the station was an AccuWeather client and included a “powered by” line crediting the company).

WLS, which is one of the market’s most dominant stations, did not use the “First Alert” branding for its traffic reports, instead relying on the brand that is its legendary traffic anchor Roz Varon as a quasi-brand name, though it does feature a “weather and traffic” animated wipe between segments. 

The ‘Realtime Weather’ stinger used from February 2020 to January 2022.

WBBM, which often lags in the local news race, largely kept the same look as it used with “Realtime,” but now boxes the words “First Alert” in a black and gold shape with an angle, matching the left stroke of the “A,” dividing the box into two. 

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This logo has also been incorporated throughout the station’s weather graphics, including being tucked into the headers of most maps and the 7 day board.

Back in August 2021, CBS hired former WGN and NewsNation executive Jennifer Lyons as its new general manager with the hopes of turning around one of its lowest-performing stations.

The change also comes after the station finally filled its chief meteorologist position with Albert Ramon, also formerly of NewsNation. 

In a separate Facebook post featuring a tease to the full forecast, WBBM included both its traditional “2” logo alongside what appears to be the new logo and name for what is now known as CBSN Chicago, CBS News Chicago, a regional news and information streaming service.

Back in March 2020, WBBM rebranded its 6 p.m. newscast under the name “Hour 18” and has continued to use that branding on air, though it is no longer billed under that name on listings as it briefly was.

Promos

WBBM has been introducing the new weather branding with a new campaign that includes weather focused and ones that include both news and weather but share a similar look.

The spots focus heavily on talent along with typography that’s tucked subtly behind some elements while also appearing to be tied to a single point in the scene as well as larger words in the backgrounds that also appear to be set “behind” certain elements in the scene.

Other Chicago stations’ weather and traffic branding

Meanwhile, WMAQ, the NBC-owned station in the market uses the “Storm Team” branding for its weather and “On Time Traffic” for road reports. Fox’s WFLD uses “Fox 32 Weather” and independent WGN uses a mix of “WGN Weather” and “WGN Weather Center” banners and “WGN Traffic.” 

WLS also prominently uses the name “Live Doppler 7 Max” for the S-band radar tower it owns on air. The station also features “AccuWeather Alerts” on air for potential severe weather.

Weather and traffic data

All of the stations mentioned above use iHeartMedia’s Total Traffic at least partially for traffic data, including using their interactive co-branded map on their respective websites, with the exception of WFLD.

Fox 32 uses a white label embedded map that, when examining the source code of the site, shows it comes from SigAlert.com, another iHeartMedia brand that uses much of the same information and format.

Each station also has a unique on-air look for traffic maps and graphics that doesn’t match the one shown on their websites.

In most markets, weather reports rely on a mix of public data from the National Weather Service and various models mixed in with the local forecasters’ own predictions and knowledge and, in some cases, additional proprietary data and forecasts.

Similarly, traffic reports draw heavily on traffic cameras and sensors installed along major thoroughfares operated by a local governmental traffic authority. This information, along with police scanner activity, helicopter flyovers and reporter knowledge can be blended with proprietary sensors and drive time estimates to provide actionable information.

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