8:22am PT by Marisa Guthrie
Sam Champion Exits ABC News for Weather Channel
Sam Champion -- who has been a part of the re-invention of Good Morning America -- is exiting ABC News for The Weather Channel.
Champion's exit marks the first change to the GMA team since the show overtook NBC's once-dominant Today last year. Ginger Zee, who has been a frequent fill-in in for Champion on GMA, will replace him.
Champion had been in contract negotiations with ABC News executives for some time. Champion's GMA colleagues Josh Elliott and Lara Spencer also are negotiating new deals at ABC News. Meanwhile, while Robin Roberts, who returned to GMA full-time last September, has completed a new deal to remain at ABC News, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter.
Champion is leaving ABC News, where he has been for 25 years, for a robust new role at The Weather Channel, which is a division of the NBCUniversal News Group. He'll anchor a new flagship morning program, set to launch early next year. And he'll assume managing editor responsibilities a the channel, which has increasingly sought to become a destination during times other than periodical weather disasters. Champion will relocate from New York to Atlanta for the gig.
In an e-mail to employees announcing the move, ABC News president Ben Sherwood noted Champion's 25 years at the news division and added that he is leaving to become the "on-air face" of the network, which Champion himself characterzed as a "once in a lifetime opportunity."
"Over the years at GMA, Sam has broadcast more than 1,800 weather forecasts. He has traveled to almost every major weather event in the U.S. As many of you know, Sam’s 'Go' bag is always ready and his stellar reporting during Superstorm Sandy contributed to ABC's Peabody Award for coverage of that historic storm," wrote Sherwood.
"Sam has broadcast live from a raft floating between polar icebergs, danced the salsa on Despierta America and interviewed countless newsmakers, celebrities and chefs. On his show Sea Rescue, viewers have shared Sam's passion for marine animal rescue, rehabilitation and release."
Added Weather Channel president David Clark: "Sam is already one of the top names in morning television, as well as one of the country's most respected and trusted weather reporters. He will add a great deal to our network and be a great addition to our already proven and stellar team of talented weather professionals. With his commitment to understanding, predicting and explaining the power of weather in our lives, Sam perfectly embodies The Weather Channel's brand philosophy, 'It’s Amazing Out There.’”