Campaigns target Weather Channel as Florence bears down

Campaigns target Weather Channel as Florence bears down
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When a hurricane hits, atmospheric pressure drops — but political television commercials on The Weather Channel spike.

The number of campaigns and outside groups airing political commercials on The Weather Channel has risen dramatically this week as Hurricane Florence bears down on the Carolina coast, according to a top media research company that keeps tabs on cable advertising.

The Washington-based NCC Media found 83 political advertisers are purchasing airtime on the channel, up from 59 last week.

When a hurricane or some other weather-related disaster strikes, The Weather Channel quickly becomes one of the most-watched stations in an increasingly diversified television marketplace.

Its viewership was up 10 percent between 2016 and 2017, according to Nielsen — 2017 was a particularly active year for hurricanes hitting the United States — and its viewership is even growing among younger audiences, something few cable channels can claim.

The station reached 70 million viewers last year and averaged more than a million viewers during the week Hurricane Irma hit Puerto Rico, the Bahamas and Florida. When Hurricane Harvey slammed into southern Texas a few weeks earlier, 37 million viewers tuned in.

The biggest spenders are both candidates and some of the biggest-spending super PACs in the country.

On the candidate side, Ohio Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Mike DeWine’s (R) campaign, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s (D) campaign and Connecticut gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont (D) are all running advertising on The Weather Channel.

The Senate Leadership Fund, which has spent more than $19 million on advertisements for Republican candidates, is the largest outside group buying Weather Channel time. Chris Pack, a spokesman for the group, said it was airing ads on the channel aimed at viewers in Tennessee, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Nevada and West Virginia, all key races in the increasingly tight battle for control of the Senate.

Hurricane Florence had weakened to a Category 2 storm by Thursday afternoon, when winds and rain began hitting the Carolina coast. The Weather Channel reported the storm is likely to make landfall either tonight or Friday, after which it will stall over the Southeast, producing buckets of rain that could accumulate to dangerous amounts.