Twenty-four-hour news station eNCA prides itself on its unique, in-depth weather reports. How could it ensure it always delivers accurate forecasts and presentations to keep viewers engaged and informed?
The company implemented visualization and data solutions from The Weather Company, making it easier and faster for its meteorologists to prepare customized graphics for their daily weathercasts.
Enablespreparation of highly accurate weather reports
Simplifiescreation of state-of-the-art graphics and social media integration
ContinueseNCA’s tradition of innovation in South African weather broadcasting
Business challenge story
Delivering pioneering weather reports
Innovation and creativity are the hallmarks of eNCA’s daily weather presentations. The television channel — South Africa’s first and most popular 24-hour rolling news station — has pioneered an in-depth, scientific approach with its weather reports, which are presented by a team of highly skilled meteorologists and atmospheric scientists in both English and Afrikaans.
Candice McKechnie, Head of the Weather Department at eNCA, begins: “We’re proud of leading the way in weather reporting in South Africa. Before we launched, most weathercasts would offer little more than details of basic rainfall for the coming days, and minimum and maximum temperatures. When we first introduced new graphics to our reports, viewers were stunned. And we still see ourselves as pioneers, with a goal of providing better, more innovative weather coverage than any other broadcaster.”
Each day, the eNCA team of six meteorologists prepares forecasts covering South Africa’s nine provinces for broadcast and publication on the station’s online platform.
“Conditions can vary dramatically across South Africa,” says McKechnie. “In recent times, we’ve witnessed everything from tornadoes in Gauteng and the Free State to drought in the Western Cape. Even within individual provinces, weather can be very different on the coast to just a few kilometers inland.”
To ensure it always delivers informative weathercasts packed with visual interest, eNCA relies on accurate weather data and tools to help create unique, compelling presentations. However, the company began to recognize the limitations of its existing solutions.
McKechnie explains: “Preparing customized graphics for our reports was a complex, time-consuming procedure. And if we wanted to collaborate across multiple workstations, it was a tricky process that required several workarounds. Our weather data was also not as precise as we would have liked, so we knew it was the right time to start looking for a smarter solution.”
Enhancing online and on-air weather updates
To reinforce its position in the South African weather broadcasting industry, eNCA decided to deploy a suite of Max Weather solutions from The Weather Company, an IBM Business.
McKechnie elaborates: “We conducted a comprehensive assessment of several weather solutions to ensure we found the best product to add extra impact to our reports. In the end, we narrowed the search down to just two vendors before opting to work with The Weather Company.”
She continues: “We already had experience working with The Weather Company’s solutions and have always found their services to be high quality. What we especially liked about the Max system was that they would give us a single point of control for both on-air and online forecast updates, a real game-changer for our meteorologists.”
The company’s meteorologists also use data from The Weather Company’s Rapid Precision Mesoscale (RPM) forecasting model to prepare their forecasts before using the Max software tools to develop clear, relevant graphics and content to keep viewers informed.
In particular, eNCA is using the Max Studio solution to support its innovative on-air weather presentations. The meteorological team can create and upload customized graphics and present them on a chroma key during the weathercast along with integrating social media posts from viewers for a more interactive audience experience.
McKechnie adds: “The chroma key gives us a greater level of flexibility in how we broadcast, allowing us to change camera angles and be more dynamic in our presentations without any risk of graphical glitches. We’re still getting used to it, but as we gain confidence, it’s going to make a real difference to the way we present on air.”
The Max Web solution enables eNCA to publish changing weather data on its digital platform and to update on-air broadcasts simultaneously. The online platform — which receives over 1.5 million hits each year — allows users to search for particular locations within South Africa and find an hour-by-hour forecast. Meanwhile, the Forecast Editor function means the weather team can easily make regular updates to its forecasts at any time.
The company is also making use of the built-in Style Guide of the Max Studio solution to help its bilingual meteorologists flip between English and Afrikaans for their weathercasts.
McKechnie explains: “Three of our presenters deliver both English and Afrikaans reports and have to switch the language of the graphics to ensure town names and other text is correctly labeled for the audience. The Style Guide feature helps remind our users to set the language correctly, reducing the scope for human error.”
She continues: “Working with The Weather Company has been great. The implementation of the new Max solutions was a smooth process, and we have an excellent ongoing relationship. We love working with our primary contact at The Weather Company in particular: he has traveled to our studios and has a deep understanding of our setup and special requirements.
“The level of support is also superb. Whenever we encounter minor issues, we just write a quick email in the morning and we know we will be having a Skype meeting with The Weather Company’s top experts in the afternoon. They really go the extra mile for us.”
Strengthening audience loyalty
Supported by The Weather Company, eNCA has the tools to prepare even more visually appealing weather content, keeping viewers up to speed with events and potentially strengthening brand loyalty. The station’s unique presentations are also helping eNCA continue to set the standard for weather presentation in South Africa.
McKechnie explains: “Since implementing the Max solutions, the feedback we have had from our viewers has been great; they really like the new presentations. And from our perspective in the meteorological team, preparing customized graphics for the reports is so much easier and faster now.
“When we used to create the daily graphics for each of the South African provinces on our old systems, we would have to render nine separate video files and add place names and text. Now, with the Max solutions, we can prepare the weather maps for all nine provinces in a single file.”
The Max solutions also significantly enhance eNCA’s ability to collaborate when preparing weathercasts. Before, users working on one production workstation would not be able to access and update a graphic prepared by a colleague on a separate computer, and would have to manually copy it over. The Max solutions, on the other hand, automatically update files across eNCA’s network, facilitating user access to the latest graphics.
McKechnie continues: “The Weather Company data feed is also a huge improvement from our old solution. Previously, there would be gaps in the coverage for South Africa; in fact, many of the international data weather feeds on the market don’t offer great-quality data for the African continent.
“With the RPM forecast model, however, we get a detailed picture of localized weather events. For example, the thunderstorms we get in South Africa are much smaller than those that build up along the equator. Global weather data models often spot the big storms but miss the smaller ones. The RPM model is much better at picking up and representing the thunderstorm activity in South Africa as well as smaller-scale conditions such as fog along the coast. Armed with that insight, we can prepare reports with an exceptional level of accuracy.”
With the Forecast Editor function in Max Daily, eNCA is also making subtle changes to its forecasts based on its local knowledge. “There are particular atmospheric nuances for many of our cities. Take Cape Town, for example: the city is flanked by the ocean on one side and Table Mountain on the other, while the airport lies 20 km away in completely different topographic conditions,” says McKechnie.
“Weather across the city is often very localized, and we have to rely on our own experience alongside our data feed to read conditions. The Forecast Editor enables us to continuously update our predictions, and our viewers and online users get the benefit of our local knowledge — it’s a really valuable tool.”
In addition, the weather team at eNCA can now add social media posts from its viewers to broadcasts much more quickly. Previously, one meteorologist would have to contact the viewer, save the photo, ensure it was on the correct workstation and then convert it into the right file format. Thanks to the automated capabilities of the Max solutions, eNCA can simply drag the image from its source and drop it directly into the weather presentation.
The eNCA team is now planning to integrate more of the Max solutions into its weathercasts, adding even greater visual impact for its audience. McKechnie adds: “We can’t wait to start using even more of the Max solutions in our reports. Next up, we will be using the visualizations and cloud templates of Max Sky when reporting on major weather events. We think they will be mind-blowing for viewers when they see the visual effects, and help attract valuable new sponsors for our weathercasts.”
She concludes: “Our work with The Weather Company is helping us stay streets ahead of other weather broadcasters in South Africa in terms of innovation. Thanks to the Max solutions, we’re cementing our position as a leading provider of captivating, informative weathercasts — we’re even seeing our broadcast rivals scramble to adopt similar technology to catch up with us!”
Owned by e.tv, South Africa’s fifth terrestrial channel, eNCA is South Africa’s most-watched 24-hour television news station. Launched in 2008, eNCA broadcasts weather reports from Cape Town and delivers live reports, breaking news, sports and entertainment updates out of Johannesburg. The station also operates a digital platform, enca.com, providing users with news and weather information.
Take the next step
To learn more about the IBM solutions featured in this story, please contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following websites:
The Weather Company, an IBM Business, helps people make informed decisions and take action in the face of weather variables. The company offers the most accurate forecasts globally with personalized and actionable weather data and insights to millions of consumers along with thousands of marketers and businesses through Weather’s API, its business solutions division, and its own digital products from The Weather Channel and Weather Underground.
The company delivers around 25 billion forecasts daily. Its products include the world’s most downloaded weather app, a network of 250,000 personal weather stations, a top-20 US website, one of the world’s largest IoT data platforms, and industry-leading business solutions.
Weather Means Business™. The world’s biggest brands in aviation, energy, insurance, media and government rely on The Weather Company for data, technology platforms and services to help improve decision-making and respond to weather’s impact on business.