The TV Model Is Broken

I love television. I’m a student of the media. It was incredibly important in shaping who I’ve become.

TV’s model is broken.

There were seven channels in NYC when I grew up. Most cities had less.

No remote control. No DVR or VCR. You watched it when it aired. If two shows you wanted to see aired simultaneously–tough.

In 1960, Gunsmoke finished the season in first place:

1 Gunsmoke CBS 40.3 rating 65 share

That’s 40% of all homes and 65% of those homes where the TV was turned on!

Last week’s number one entertainment show was “Big Bang Theory.” It had a 5.1 rating.

In those more innocent days you had to be careful not to get hit by the falling bags of money! Not today.

Before WTNH was sold in 1985, Geraldine Fabrikant wrote this in the New York Times:

The jewel in the ABC-Capital Cities package is WTNH-TV, the Capital Cities station affiliated with ABC, that covers the New Haven and Hartford markets. Its 1984 net revenue was $24.9 million, and operating income was $14.6 million. That meant operating profit margins of 58 percent. During the past five years, the margin has never been lower than 58 percent, and it has been as high as 62 percent.

They took in $25 million at 8 Elm Street for an operation that cost $10 million to run!

Those days are long gone. Though the broadcast networks and their affiliates are still the dominant force, their audience is a fraction of what it was.

Technology has been the difference. The pie has been sliced into many more smaller pieces.

Whether they take advantage or not, most people are currently equipped to see shows without benefit of television. We’ve got computers and tablets and smartphones and they’re all very capable of video playback.

I knew Saturday Night Live was going to be good last night because I read tweets from the East Coast. Why did I have to wait to see the show? Only because it breaks television’s business model!

The same with this afternoon’s Cowboys/Redskins game. It wasn’t on in SoCal. I wanted to see it and did… don’t ask. Free and easy access to all the games breaks television’s business model.

We need local TV. We need local news and other local programming (scant as it is), but won’t have it for long unless TV stations find a new business model.

I can see a future where shows will stand on their own without a station or network. Netflix productions are a step in that direction, but why do you even need Netflix?

TV’s current model is broken. The more viewers realize it, the harder it will be to hold back the tide.

Quotes That Keep On Giving

“I hate this,” Fox protested. “There is no skill in making these predictions.”

Blogger’s note: As I re-read all of this, Abe Katz did take my words in their proper context. The blogger noted below is the one who twisted them to his purpose. Life goes on.

Abe Katz of the New Haven Register (and others including the Bristol Press) interviewed me a few days ago about the oncoming winter. The Climate Prediction Center has issued their somewhat broad projections.

“I hate this,” Fox protested. “There is no skill in making these predictions.”

OK–maybe that’s a little over-the-top, but there’s little benefit to the average person who lives day-to-day and not on a seasonal basis. Later in the article I talked about sunspots and the suspicion of a casual relationship between them and the Earth’s temperature.

Fox said he is intrigued by a possible link between solar activity and weather. Sunspot activity, believed to be caused by incredibly strong magnetic fields, peaked in about 2000, and has been in decline since then, into what is called a Maunder minimum.

Activity should be rising again. Space weather gurus at NASA expect another sunspot peak between 2010 and 2015.

Unfortunately, the relationship between solar activity and weather remains obscure.

“No one knows what one has to do with the other,” Fox said.

I later wrote Abe asking, “Am I that negative?” I thought I came off a little surly… and with all due respect, Abe has written this article before in years past. My answers are always fairly similar. I’m not a big long term guy.

This afternoon I got word my quote had been picked up in a blog.

Case in point: Geoff Fox, a meteorologist with WTNH-TV in Connecticut, stated in an interview with The Bristol Press, that “he is intrigued by a possible link between solar activity and weather.” Then, Fox went on to say, “No one knows what one has to do with the other.”

So, I wonder how Mr. Fox would answer the question, “What if the Sun went out tomorrow? Would that affect the weather?” or “What if the Sun started burning hotter by millions of degrees? Would that affect weather?” Most kids in kindergarten would probably say yes to both questions!

Save your breath. I have already called him an ass.

Thanks for taking an out-of-context quote and bringing it further out-of-context. The fact that I do not support Al Gore’s theories (I had the honor of being invited to see him present it at the White House and left unconvinced) doesn’t make you less of an ass for not finding the source of the quote and asking it be put in perspective.

Within context, I brought up sunspots because I do believe there is a possible cause/effect relationship between them and the Earth’s temperature. As far as I know there is nothing other than anecdotal evidence connecting them and no quantification of the relative importance of sunspots in global climatology.

I believe I’m relatively easy to find. You probably owed it to those who read this to seek me out before typing.

Geoff Fox

Whether my comment is published is up to the blog’s owner.

Quoted In The Post

I got a call last week. It was Charlie Walsh from the Connecticut Post in Bridgeport. He, like so many others, had seen AccuWeather’s latest press release, featuring Joe Bastardi’s call for the remainder of winter, and wanted to discuss it.

I didn’t demure!

“While I’m not saying he’s wrong,” said WTNH-TV’s Geoff Fox, “call me a skeptic.”

Fox pointed to Bastardi’s prediction in October of last year that the coming winter would be “cooler than normal.”

“I think the tendency of people is to hear [Bastardi’s] predictions without considering his past accuracy,” Fox said.

Here’s the story from Saturday’s paper.

Continue reading “Quoted In The Post”

Quote In The BU Newspaper

I got an email a week or so ago. It was from a Connecticut resident, now a student at Boston University. Chris wanted to know if I’d answer a few weather questions for an article in the BU daily… and so I did.

Continue reading “Quote In The BU Newspaper”

Hey – They Called Me A Meteorologist

I’ve been quoted on-and-off in the New Haven Register for years. Today was the first time since my studies at MSU ended, and so the first time to be called “meteorologist.”

The storm, which brought winds clocked as high as 68 miles per in Oxford, coincided with record warmth for this time of year. At 9:32 a.m., it was 60 degrees at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Bridgeport, shattering the previous 1999 record of 55 degrees by five degrees, said WTNH-TV meteorologist Geoff Fox.

But with all that wind, “I don

I’m More Pessimistic About Hurricanes

Recently I was interviewed for an article in Business New Haven concerning hurricanes. I’ve linked to the text.

Over time I’ve become more pessimistic of what might happen in a repeat of the hurricane of ’38 scenario for Connecticut. There would be little time for warning and difficulty explaining where the damage might occur.

Even in 2005, a tragedy seems unavoidable. That’s not what I want to say, but it is a realistic expectation.

I’m glad to see, though Dr. Mel Goldstein and I were interviewed separately (I didn’t even know he had been interviewed), we are in agreement with our concern.

Unlike Katrina where good advice was ignored, I’m not sure what we could do today to help prepare us for a hurricane approaching us at 60 mph. The entire East Coast would need warning. What good would that do?

Continue reading “I’m More Pessimistic About Hurricanes”

Best of New Haven

OK – it’s not the Oscar for Best Picture, but this is the ground on which I compete. I was thrilled to, again, win the “Best of” readers’ poll from the New Haven Advocate in the “Local TV Personality” category.

Best Local TV Personality

Geoff Fox

WTNH-TV, 8 Elm St., New Haven, (203) 784-8888

It’s raining, it’s pouring, Geoff Fox is winning the “Best Of” award for

Local TV Personality again. And why not? He’s been “local” for two

decades. He’s on TV, and he’s so damned personable. Whenever he walks

into a room, people want to chat with him, and not just about the

weather. Maybe about his incessant poker-playing, or his wife’s

obsession with soap-rocker Rick Springfield, or the computer he built

himself, or how he looks like he’s lost weight (He has–15 pounds, with

the goal of dropping 10 more).

Most of the time, Fox is the one starting the conversations, and he’s

out and about constantly–at charity events, school programs or holiday

gatherings. “I’ve probably spoken individually to every schoolchild in

Connecticut,” he grins. And they constantly come up to him to remind him

of those fleeting, yet important, encounters. Amid all this, he still

finds time to report the weather on Channel 8 weekdays at 5, 6, 10 and

11 p.m. , which makes his nice-guy-ness all the more amazing. (He

doesn’t go to bed until 3 or 4 a.m.)

This month marks Fox’s 20th anniversary with Channel 8. Before that he

worked in Buffalo, N.Y. a market where it’s pretty easy to predict the

weather, at least in the winter: SNOW. Geoff Fox is a guy who just keeps

shining and is never partly cloudy.

2nd: Dr. Mel (WTNH-TV)

8 Elm St., New Haven, (203) 784-8888

3rd: Ann Nyberg (WTNH-TV)

8 Elm St., New Haven, (203) 784-8888

Before anyone who was passed over, in any category, gets bent out of shape, let me point out that Quinnipiac University beat out Yale University for “Best Local 4-Year College.”

Blogger’s note: I am now down about 23.5 pounds and hoping to lose another 5 or 6 by July.

Quoted in Hartford Magazine – Again

A few weeks ago Elizabeth McGuire of Hartford Magazine asked me to respond to some thoughts from the news director of one of my competitors. I thought you might like to read the finished product.

“A great, great deal has been said about the weather, but very little has ever been done.” More than 130 years after Hartford resident Mark Twain made that observation, we still have a great deal to say about the weather. “What is the one universal content item in a newscast that affects everyone? It’s the weather,” says Nick Lawler, a senior consultant with Frank N. Magid, a widely recognized television-industry consulting company based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “In national and local studies, weather usually comes out as one of , if not the top reason for people to watch a newscast,” says Lawler.

It’s not surprising that competition is still among local television stations to grab weather-watcher’s attention. Stations may not be able to do much about Mother Nature but they certainly attempt to track her every move. For example, WFSB-TV has been promoting “Early Warning Weather.” What’s that mean? “The combination of the most advanced technology and the most experienced team of meteorologists means we can warn viewers about what’s coming faster and more accurately that any other station,” says News Director Lyn Tolan. “We can give you snowfall to a portion of an inch for the area where you live. It’s really amazing stuff.”

Veteran WTNH-TV weatherman Geoff Fox, however, doesn’t buy Tolan’s claim. “We are much more accurate than we were in the past,” says Fox. “However, we believe that an accurate forecast, of value to our viewers, begins with realistic claims of our abilities. We don’t promise what we can’t deliver.” Fox also says, If she (Tolan) would like to make a wager on her claim, I will gladly take her money.” Thus challenged, Tolan says that though she stands by her claim, she’s not “a betting woman!”

I’m Not That Nice

A few months ago, Elizabeth McGuire (no Lizzie McGuire jokes, please) asked if she could interview me for Hartford Magazine. Never the shy one, I said yes.

I have just read the article, and can now guarantee, I’m not anywhere as nice as she portrayed me. I am grateful, however, she lied on my behalf.

Only part of the article was on the magazine’s website, so I retyped it to place here on my site. Other than changing the spelling of my daughter’s name, and my length of service at WTNH, I’ve left it as is.

Hartford Magazine / February 2004

WTNH weatherman Geoff Fox doesn’t mind being call a weather geek. In fact, he finds it flattering. Fox loves the scientific process of predicting and forecasting the weather. “I’m the kind of guy who does like to look at lists of numbers, charts and gr4aphs. It’s a different math puzzle every single day, and no matter what you do, you’re presented with another math puzzle the next day,” Fox says.

Day after day for the past 19 years at WTNH-TV, Fox has pored over the maps, graphs and charts; analyzed the data; and then translated the information into “plain English” for his viewers. Fox gets two to three minutes during evening newscasts to tell viewers how the weather on any given day is likely to affect them. Without being asked, he answers dozens of questions such as, “Should I wear a raincoat, start that outdoor project or cancel that backyard picnic?” Fox says many viewers listen critically to his forecasts, and they hold him accountable when he’s wrong. “Believe me, people can be tough if you are wrong – and they should be, because other than the Psychic Friends Network, there aren’t too many people who come on television and predict the future for a living,” Fox explains.

As we sit at the kitchen table in Fox’s spacious Hamden home one recent afternoon, Fox explains to me that advances in computer technology have increased weather forecasters’ ability to develop more accurate forecasts. Suddenly, Fox excuses himself and leaves the room. Moments later he’s back with his laptop computer. There begins my tutorial on weather patterns. A map with curvy lines shows barometric pressure, one with splotches of color shows precipitation, and a pretty blue graph shows, well I’m not sure what that one showed, but it sure is colorful! Though much of what Fox explains is lost on my unscientific mind, his main point isn’t: The mathematical calculations and other technical information computers offer weather forecasters are essential tools of the trade. Like blueprints to contractors, or EKG printouts to doctors, computers make it easier for weather forecasters to be correct more often. “We can get more detailed information about what the atmosphere is doing… why it’s doing it… how it’s doing it…”

But once Fox comes out from behind the computer, he is able to deliver important information in an easy-to-understand, conversational manner. And he just about always throws some humor into his forecasts, often catching his co-anchors off guard. “I’ve always been the guy who told the jokes and made funny little remarks. And I think I have good timing,” says Fox.

Fox honed his timing during his 11 years as a morning-radio personality in Cleveland, Philadelphia and Buffalo. In 1980, Fox became the host of a Buffalo TV magazine show at WGRZ-TV. That’s where he became interested in weather forecasting, applied for a weekend weather position, and got the job. Fox realized meteorology was an area in which he could use his math and science skills. Fox says he was always good in those subjects and was even on the school math team as a kid growing up in Flushing, Queens, NY.

Even though Fox says he scored higher than 700 on the math portion of the SATs, he tells me he was not a very good student, especially in college. “I was in the accelerated dismissal program at Emerson.” he jokes. In fact, he flunked out the first time he attended the Boston college that specializes in communications.

He is now, however, getting straight A’s in his course work to become a certified meteorologist. He’s enrolled in a distance learning program at Mississippi State University. But most of what Fox needs to know to get a degree in meteorology he already knows.

After years of on-the-job training and watching New England weather patterns, Fox has a pretty good track record of predicting the weather. A classic example of getting it right was his forecast for the so-called “Storm of the Century” (as some television promotion departments dubbed it) that took aim at Connecticut the first weekend of March 2001. Most of the computer weather models were indicating the strong possibility of at least three feet of snow with blizzard conditions. But Fox didn’t think they were correct. He had been using a different computer model (maintained by a major university) during the 200-2001 winter season, and it had been extremely accurate. So, Fox was pretty certain the site’s calculations on heights, temperatures and pressures in the atmosphere were reliable. He stuck with his prediction that the storm would bring mostly rain, sleet and perhaps a few inches of snow. “If you’re confident in your abilities, you have to give what you think is best, in spite of the pack,” he says. Fox’s news director at the time questioned the accuracy of his forecast but then decided to trust it. Gov. Rowland, however, put his faith in the blizzard forecasts and practically shut down the state. The “Storm of the Century” never materialized. Fox would later write an Op-Ed piece for the New Haven Register that he was “hurt” by an article in that paper, which led readers to believe that all area forecasters got it wrong.

That’s not to say, however, that Fox gets it right all the time. Even after 20 years in the television business Fox says he is still “incredibly bothered” when his forecasts don’t bear out. “there will be times when I wake up on a Saturday morning and I will be upset that it’s sunny. If I said it’s gonna rain, than a rainy day is much nicer than a sunny day.” Fox has been know to apologize to his viewers on the air when one of his forecasts has proven incorrect.

In the family room of Fox’s house, the fireplace mantel is crowded with pictures of his 16-year-old daughter Stefanie, in various stages of childhood and Fox’s wedding pictures. Fox and his wife Helaine recently celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary. Next to the mantel, behind the glass door of his entertainment center, Fox displays his seven shiny gold Emmy awards – meticulously lined up in a row. He earned those awards for weather and science reporting. Along with his work at WTNH-TV, Fox has hosted a show called “Inside Space” on the SciFi Channel and has been a fill-in weathercaster on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Fox says he would like to do more work for ABC because the experience was “cool.” He’d also like to host a game show but says those jobs would be in addition to his work at WTNH-TV.

When Fox isn’t working, he spends his time with his family, maintains his Web site( with his daily postings and plays Internet Poker. Fox also does charity work, and his favorite charities include the March of Dimes and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Fox sums up his feelings about the charity work and accurate forecasts this way” “Look, I’m not living in a hovel. I’m not driving a ’65 Pinto, and the reason I have whatever success and nice things I have is because of the people of Connecticut, so I feel there’s an obligation to give something back.”

Quoted in the Norwich Bulletin

It’s always nice to be called upon as an expert. I got a little mention in the Norwich Bulletin today, though they goofed and said the historical average for January was the actual average.

It’s also funny how irony is sometimes difficult to translate into the printed word. My comment about global warming, as spoken, reflects my somewhat skeptical view of the doomsayers.

Big chill to hang around


Norwich Bulletin


NORWICH — NORWICH — Snowfall did finally end Wednesday evening.

And as residents continued to dig themselves out from the 7 inches of snow in Norwich, they do have a brighter outlook for the remainder of the week.

Temperatures are expected to rise slightly through the weekend with highs in the upper 20s to low 30s with overnight lows in the teens.

There is no end in sight to cold temperatures that have been the norm this year, according to Geoff Fox, forecaster at WTNH-TV in New Haven.

The average high temperatures in Norwich have been 37.6 degrees and lows of 17.5 degree for the month, according to data collected at the weather station at the Norwich Public Utilities building.

“We’ve certainly been in a colder than normal pattern, and it looks like that pattern will persist,” Fox said. “It makes global warming a hard sell.”

State and local police urge caution on the roadways, especially during the morning commute to avoid spinouts and fender benders.

Despite the fact that temperatures will likely not reach far beyond the freezing mark, roadways should be clear of ice during the day as the asphalt heats up from solar energy. The constant warming and freezing, however, likely will lead to formation of more potholes.

John Mayer

This is weird!

We bought 4 John Mayer tickets, but they were in a terrible location. So, since the show’s a sellout, we’re selling them on eBay and using the proceeds to buy 2 better tickets. So far, so good.

Except, tonight one of my co-workers bid on them!

If they weren’t already on eBay, they’d be hers… but I’m sort of locked into the auction.

Here’s an article from the Waterbury Republican American about John Mayer… and me (a little)

What does the singer John Mayer remember most about his childhood in Connecticut?

“Geoff Fox,” he says, referring to the longtime WTNH-TV weatherman.

“I remember waking up on winter mornings, looking out my window and seeing eight inches of snow. Then Geoff would instill hope that the next day of school would be canceled.”