If you occasionally check the Weather Channel (either the smartphone app or online), you'll see they reference strong weather systems by name. (It only seems to be eastern storms.) I've always wondered if this was just something The Weather Channel does--for whatever reason--of if the NWS really does name them.
It is just the Weather Channel. You can tell which businesses frequently watch (or even do business with) the Weather Channel by whether or not they refer to them by these names. The naming of winter storms irks many of the meteorologists I know (including myself).
It should also be noted that Europe has a history of applying names to historic storms... though the practice has only started to become a bit more formalized recently, driven in part by confusion between inconsistent names and notability.
Media in Germany started naming storms in the 1950s, but their process has had plenty of controversy along the way... (apparently now a storm's naming rights can now be purchased by companies or citizens!?!)
- It suggests the Weather Channel believes presumptuously that they are worthy of claiming to be some sort of larger body of official authority
- The application of the names seems quite arbitrary, mainly based on impacts in the southern and eastern US, rather than the mostly objective basis for tropical cyclone naming.
- While winter storms indeed can be rather life-changing and significant events, it still waters down the usage of names as a whole... as many people note, should we also start naming wildfires, floods, squall lines, and everyday thunderstorms?
- As can be common in commercial media, The Weather Channel does have a history of hyping and over-dramatizing storms for eyeballs (see the example in this story)
But for what it's worth, whether it's the extra attention garnered or the belief it's helping in disseminating storm information, 2017-18 marks the sixth year that The Weather Channel has named storms.
(See also: naming tropical cyclones)