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The Weather Channel's 'Smooth Jazz' Strikes Chord with Viewers

Every day, millions of U.S. television viewers tune into the Weather Channel to get their latest forecast. But, as VOA's Doug Levine tells us, weather may not be the only reason people are watching.

Neither snow nor rain nor heat have dampened the spirits of a growing number of Weather Channel viewers who are tuning into its local weather segments for the background music as well as the forecasts.

It may sound like a smooth jazz radio station, but the regional forecast known as Local on the 8s (meaning that local forecasts are broadcast each hour at 8, 18, 28, 38, 48 and 58 minutes past the hour) has been music to the ears of the Weather Channel's music producer Steve Hurst.

"When I took it over, my mandate was to make it (Local On the 8s) bigger and better, and more appealing," he explains. "And then we had some new leadership come to the department and they said, 'This is a huge thing. It's one of the biggest, most recognizable aspects of our programming and we really need to focus on it.' So, they gave me money and they gave me time to really get into it and make it much better."

Hurst found that modern instrumental jazz struck a chord with viewers intent on getting the most up-to-date forecast. He says he had mixed results when he tried programming more traditional forms of jazz.

Hurst: "I played Charlie Parker which really didn't go over too well."

Host: "How come?"

Hurst: "I guess it was so different, kind of like the bop stuff he plays. It was so different from what we played it kind of threw everybody for a loop [confused everybody]. So, I was asked to tone that one down."

The Weather Channel has come a long way from the days when employees brought their own records to play on the air. Today, the music has become so popular the network released a CD of some of its most requested songs: The Weather Channel Presents Smooth Jazz.

Steve Hurst, who has been fine-tuning the music for Local on the 8s for the past eight years, says it took some trail and error to narrow down his playlist to a 12-song compilation.

"At first I had a huge list of songs and I would just take my very favorite songs. But then, you put them all on an album, and they don't really flow well together," he explains. "So, the list [of songs] we have on there now really balances out; one song to the next song to the next song to the next. It's really a lot more fluid."

The Weather Channel Presents Smooth Jazz unites new talent with veterans. One of the network's most requested artists is saxophonist Dave Koz who teams up with guitarist Robben Ford and drummer Chester Thompson on "Shakin' The Shack."