Sam Champion, Al Roker Lose Shows in Weather Channel Cost Cutting
Roker's New York-based early morning show will be scrapped, though he'll continue to make appearances during severe weather coverage. Champion will focus on primetime and digital.
Sam Champion and Al Roker will lose their respective Weather Channel programs in a company cost cutting plan that will refocus the Atlanta-based channel on weather news and its robust digital business.
Champion, who was poached from Good Morning America last year to anchor morning show AMHQ, will have his last show on Oct. 30. Instead, Champion will focus on primetime weather reporting and digital ventures.
Roker's early morning program Wake Up with Al is taped in New York, a necessity of Roker's other job on NBC's Today. Weather Channel is shuttering its New York studio, which Dave Shull, president of Weather Channel Television Group deemed too "cost-prohibitive." Roker's last show will be Oct. 2. He will continue to make appearances from New York during severe weather coverage. He also will focus on digital projects.
The entire weekday morning 5-10 a.m. block will now be produced in Atlanta, while Stephanie Abrams will return to the channel to be a "key part" of the morning team, Shull wrote in a note to staffers Wednesday morning.
Additionally, 50 staffers will lose their jobs in the reorganization.
The changes come as Weather Channel executives prepare to launch an OTT (over the top) service to better position the company for the future. Last year, the channel endured a carriage dispute with DirecTV that saw the satellite provider drop the network for three months. And as more major service providers are offering consumers skinny bundles, many networks (including smaller channels and expensive sports nets) are in danger of losing out on lucrative carriage fees.
At the same time, Weather Channel has seen its digital business, including the popular weather.com, grow rapidly. The product and technology business is now the most profitable part of the company, and first overtook the TV division for the second quarter this year.
The network has over 200 meteorologists and will continue to deploy them to weather wracked parts of the country. But such coverage is expensive and so the network's foray into original and lifestyle programming will be scrapped in favor of more breaking weather reporting. Champion, for his part, "will work to create regular primetime shows that highlight the intersection of new technologies and weather," wrote Shull, adding that he'll be instrumental in the network's Local Now product for OTT providers.
Added Shull: "His deep understanding of local television will be crucial in helping us build our network of local content with the major broadcast station groups."