Kansas City station launches all-weather broadcast to better serve viewers

A Kansas City, Missouri, station has launched a 30-minute broadcast dedicated to weather, which is the result of a strategic vision to help boost the station’s ability to deliver the content viewers want and need.

For KCTV, a Gray Television-owned CBS affiliate, the launch of the “First Warn 5 Weather Show” May 6, 2024, was the culmination of months of planning. 

“We know how important weather is to our viewers and to our community, and we made it a goal of ours to provide our weather product in a way like never before. To accomplish that goal, we had to focus on our branding and our team of meteorologists providing that daily weather content,” said Josh Morgan, KCTV’s news director. 

In 2023, the station rolled out the “First Warn 5 Weather” branding, a name intended to emphasize the station’s goal of providing viewers with vital weather information that would impact their day. The station also began labeling severe weather days as “First Warn Weather Days” while days with other important weather events get a “First Warn” tag.

Earlier in 2024, KCTV hired Luke Dorris from WPLG in Miami, Florida, for the role of chief meteorologist, who joined an existing team of forecasters. The station also added Melissa Meeder to its afternoon timeslot earlier in 2024.

“With our new team in place, we started to look for areas to provide information where our competition wasn’t. We identified 6:30 p.m. as an opportunity area,” Morgan explained. 

The station had been airing “KC Sports Tonight” at 6:30 p.m. local time (like most central time zone stations, “CBS Evening News” airs live at 5:30 p.m. central, 6:30 p.m. eastern).

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The station conducted research that showed there was still a demand for local content in this slot. 

“We knew that moving an all-weather show into this time period would allow us to capitalize on our most important content, which unquestionably is weather,” said Morgan.

The notion of an all-weather broadcast came from sister stations WBRC in Birmingham, Alabama, and WOIO in Cleveland, Ohio, which have both been airing similar shows. 

“We learned a lot from (those stations). In fact, members of the WOIO team helped us craft our current show into what it is today. We certainly put our own touches on the broadcast here in Kansas City, but the idea came from our partners who saw the same opportunity we did,” Morgan noted.

Ultimately the decision to go all-weather, as opposed to news or lifestyle, was a “no-brainer” given the station’s research showing that viewers wanted comprehensive weather storytelling that might not be possible within the weather block of a traditional newscast. 

To fill that need, the station saw the opportunity to build not only a new show but an entire platform to give viewers vital information 

“They now know we will be there every single day, rain or shine — so to speak — so when a big severe weather day does arrive, they know who they can count on,” said Morgan.

KCTV has all five members of its weather team contributing to the new show as well as a news producer with a background in weather assigned to it. This is all overseen by the nightside executive producer and Morgan.

Plans call for the station to have a single anchor from its evening team to appear each day, helping provide transitions between segments and contributing a “5 Things You Need to Know” news summary. 

Dorris is scheduled to appear daily — he is specifically identified in the new show’s opens and bumps — but each day will draw on one or two additional weather team members joining him live. Morning meteorologists are also able to contribute taped content, such as an explainer-style segment from Greg Bennett on the debut show.

“At first, it seemed a daunting task to fill an entire half hour with weather content five days per week and keep it compelling,” acknowledged Dorris, though on days with severe weather the station doesn’t expect challenges stacking the show. 

However, it quickly became clear that severe weather wasn’t a requirement to still be able to offer a fast-paced and jam-packed broadcast — and trimming available weather news can be challenging.

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The extended footprint allows the station’s weather team to offer more granular forecasts, such as the “Zone-By-Zone” feature, something that isn’t possible during a three-minute hit during a newscasts. 

“That is useful no matter how intense or calm the current weather is,” said Dorris, who also pointed out the show is able to showcase the power of weather from all around the world. 

The show also gives the team the change to explain the “why” behind weather — as well as specific segments such as a planning calendar tied to local sporting and cultural events and holidays. For major sports matchups, the extended runtime allows forecasters to dive into even more detailed breakdowns of conditions.

KCTV, with guidance from WOIO, developed a rundown that starts with a first weather segment before leading into the zone-by-zone forecast and calendar segment. 

The “Weather Show” does have a “main weather” block as well as an entire segment dedicated to the seven day, a format that allows the meteorologists to break up weather content into more manageable pieces instead of trying to cram highlights into the one or two weather hits found in a traditional newscast. 

It also doesn’t hurt that Kansas City is smack in the middle of a part of the country known for being unique in the world of weather.

“Clashes of air masses from the north and south and storm systems raging off the Rockies bring us incredible swings,” explained Dorris, who also has experience tracking hurricanes and tropical storms that would pop up at his old station.

In the event the atmosphere decides to be calmer, the station has recognized that it may need to be fluid, including offering more news on a day when the newsroom, as opposed to the weather center, is tracking a major story.

All told, it’s important to the team that they never “dilute” the weather content, with the ultimate goal of featuring weather storytelling that is “rich and worthy of our viewers’ time.” 

To build its on-air weather graphics, the station continues to leverage its existing Weather Company Max system and can also relies on the graphics team to contribute more polished graphics on an as-needed basis.

“It takes an incredible amount of creativity, production and time to do this well,” Dorris emphasized. “Everyone has a role to play and each is critical.”

The debut of the “First Warn 5 Weather Show” on May 6 also happened to be a day packed with severe weather, including thunderstorms and hail throughout the region. 

To produce the show, the station essentially took over its entire news set, designed by Z Space Creative and installed back in 2019.

“Weather Show” uses dark and dramatic lighting throughout and takes advantage of the space’s multiple video panel arrays and venues to give segments distinct looks.

The studio’s lower-resolution LED panels, which are used primarily as background elements, sport a dark loop of moving clouds and the horizontal banding from the GrayONE graphics package, a choice that adds a subtle yet effective dynamic element to viewers’ screens. 

The team-based nature of the show can also be highlighted through the use of boxed layouts or with two meteorologists appearing on-screen at the same time and volleying between both forecasters, such as using the far ends of the 2 × 4 array.

With the multiple spaces available and on-set technology, the station is able to capitalize on being able to explaining weather stories in a variety of ways, including the traditional chroma key wall. 

“From the directors setting what seems like a hundred shots around the studio, to the wonderful producer who pieces it all together, to my fellow meteorologists who bring the weather story to life with enthusiasm and to the vision and guidance of our news director, it all is a quite a feat. I’m proud to be a part of it,” said Dorris. 

The station even gathers everyone, including the news anchor, at the anchor desk for the end of the show, showcasing its “happy family” of weather forecasters on hand to keep viewers informed. 

“KCTV5 is always looking for ways to innovate and to better serve the viewers who trust us each and every day. KCTV5 and the First Warn 5 Weather Team is honored to take a leadership role in the Kansas City market, and we look forward to continuing to find ways to better serve our viewers in the future,” said Morgan.