The Weather Channel is celebrating its birthday; on this day in 1982, the cable network went on-air. Dedicated to providing around-the-clock weather coverage, the Weather Channel was the first of its kind.
Founded by meteorologist John Coleman with Frank Batten, then-CEO of Landmark Communications, the duo kicked-off the cable network at 8pm ET with meteorologists Bruce Edwards and Andre Bernier.
A lot has changed since that first broadcast, with changes in leadership, ownership, and network content.
John Coleman made headlines recently for being a “scientific realist” that disagrees with climate change theories being proposed by others. “Shame on you, Al Gore,” Coleman said. Meteorologists and climatologists “can rarely get on TV, ever since Al Gore made it a plank of the Democratic Party,” Coleman said in an interview he had on the Fox News Channel. The Weather Channel, which has adopted a philosophy in stark contrast to its founding meteorologist, released a statement. “Mr. Coleman does have a place in our company’s history, and we appreciate the contributions he made more than 30 years ago. However, we want to be clear: John Coleman is no longer affiliated with our company, and his opinions do not represent The Weather Company. We regret any confusion this has caused.”
In October of 2012, the Weather Channel became part of “The Weather Company”, which was the combination of other weather entities within its umbrella including WSI and The Weather Underground.
Before becoming the Weather Company, in 2002 The Weather Channel was acquired by NBC Universal and private equity firms The Blackstone Group and Bain capital in 2008. A year later, NBC Universal was acquired by Comcast.
In 2015, The Weather Company was almost entirely acquired by IBM. The website, Weather.com, the cable network’s mobile app, and all weather forecasting technology and talent associated with WSI and the Weather Company became part of IBM’s Watson arm. One key property wasn’t acquired: the cable network itself. As a result of the deal, The Weather Channel cable television station will simply license weather data and analytics under a long-term deal.
“The Weather Company’s extremely high-volume data platform, coupled with IBM’s global cloud and the advanced cognitive computing capabilities of Watson, will be unsurpassed in the Internet of Things, providing our clients significant competitive advantage as they link their business and sensor data with weather and other pertinent information in real time,” said John Kelly, senior vice president, IBM Solutions Portfolio and Research at the time of the acquisition. “This powerful cloud platform will position IBM to arm entire industries with deep multimodal insights that will help enterprises gain clarity and take action from the oceans of data being generated around them.”
Throughout those leadership and ownership changes, the Weather Channel has evolved their content and rotated in/out various weather personalities. In 2016, the Weather Channel parted ways with television personality Sam Champion. In January 2017, the Weather Channel announced that Dr. Greg Forbes would leave his full-time post while tropical expert Michael Lowry would leave completely. In March 2017, the Weather Channel announced that the current Director of the National Hurricane Center, Dr. Rick Knabb, who was previously at the Weather Channel, would return for the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season. In addition to rotating talent in and out, the Weather Channel has also trimmed long-form, non-weather-related shows from its lineup, replacing it with more weather-based content and live coverage. Shows such as “WxGeeks” and “Weather Underground” were added to the programming line-up as a result.
While cable television ratings have sagged with viewers getting weather information from other sources such as websites, apps, and social media feeds, the Weather Channel still remains a very strong brand in the cable news arena. In April 2017, Harris Poll EquiTrend showed that The Weather Channel was the most popular TV news brand. The study ranks consumer brands on familiarity, quality and consideration. This is the seventh year in a row Weather has topped this poll; in 2017, The Weather Channel beat out Fox News Channel, MSNBC, and CNN for the honors.