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August 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Notwithstanding the destruction and death wrought by Hurricane — now Tropical Storm — Irene over the weekend, the damage actually fell far short of TV doomsayers’ forecasts. (Britain’s Guardian newspaper described it as “the storm that wasn’t.) But preliminary figures suggest that it likely produced record ratings for The Weather Channel, a unit of Comcast-controlled NBC Universal. As the storm approached last Thursday, ratings for the channel began to move ahead of those for each of the all-news cable channels, On Friday, prior to Irene’s arrival on the East Coast, Weather Channel chief Michael J. Kelly said in an interview with Adweek that during such weather-related events, “people tune in and log on to our properties in numbers that eclipse everybody else in the industry.” Kelly denied that the channel had been exaggerating Irene’s threat. “We don’t need to hype to get the ratings, because people naturally come to us,” he told the trade publication. Responding to charges by some commentators that television newscasters had been trying to drum up ratings, veteran WNBC New York anchor Chuck Scarborough remarked after the storm had moved out on Sunday, “We’re in the news business. We deal in doom.” But on the, media commentator Howard Kurtz offered this retort to such remarks: “Someone has to say it: Cable news was utterly swept away by the notion that Irene would turn out to be Armageddon.” On his L.A. Biz Observed blog, longtime media business writer Marc Lacter headlined that Irene had turned out to be “not the monster that had been feared (promised?.)” He concluded: “Moral of the story: Disasters cannot be programmed.”