The Weather Channel is celebrating its 40th 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 in 2017 for being a self-proclaimed “scientific realist” that disagrees with climate change theories being proposed by others, including those promoted by the cable network he founded. “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 a TV news interview. The views of its founder were so different from The Weather Channel in 2017 that it prompted the network to issue a statement of the matter: “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.” John Coleman passed away in 2018.
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 would 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 then-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. WxGeeks was eventually cancelled due to low ratings.
In March 2018, the cable network was acquired once again. Media mogul Byron Allen made the deal through his Entertainment Studios to acquire the network from its owners, The Blackstone Group, Bain Capital and Comcast/NBCUniversal. While the terms of the deal weren’t made public, the Hollywood Reporter pegs the deal to be around $300million. The deal does not include The Weather Channel’s digital properties, such as their websites, weather.com and wunderground.com, or their mobile app; those remain the property of IBM. IBM continues to license its weather data to the cable network.
In 2020, The Weather Channel launched two new series as part of their slate of original programming: “World’s Deadliest Weather” and “Deadline to Disaster”. “We’re excited to introduce two new series to our slate of original programming this Spring at a time where people are staying at home and looking for new content,” said Howard Sappington, Vice President of Original Programming at The Weather Channel. “While the network is known for our live programming around severe weather events, our original programs provide our viewers with a different kind of look into the world of extreme weather.”
In 2021, the Weather Channel earned the Harris Poll EquiTrend TV News “Brand of the Year” for the 11th consecutive year. The Harris Poll is one of the longest-running surveys in the U.S.; tracking public opinion, motivations and social sentiment since 1963. Now in its 33rd year, Harris Poll EquiTrend® is an annual tracking study that measures and compares the brand health of nearly 2,000 brands across 150+ categories from automobiles to restaurants. The Weather Channel television network received the highest equity score among a subset of brands evaluated in the TV News Category.
Sadly in 2021, the Weather Channel also experienced loss. Meteorologist Paul Emmick, who was featured as an on-camera meteorologist on the network from 1996 to 2003, passed away from natural causes at age 55.
This year, the Weather Channel was back in the news for a lawsuit it filed against television ratings company Nielsen. The lawsuit filed in March claims that, due to the Nielsen system’s alleged deficiencies, television producers collectively lost over $700 million in lost ad revenue between September 2020 and December 2021. “Nielsen is the most well-known television ratings service provider in the country, but it relies on an antiquated panel system to estimate television viewership,” the complaint states. “This is a crude tool that does not reliably measure television viewership in the Twenty-First Century.” The current CEO of Nielsen is David Kenny; Kenny was previously CEO and Chairman of the Weather Channel, leaving the post for Nielsen two years after IBM’s acquisition of the Weather Channel’s digital assets.
Today, on the 40th birthday of the television network, the Weather Channel announced the launch of a new weather channel. Byron Allen’s Allen Media Group television network launched The Weather Channel en Español, the first 24/7 Spanish-language free-streaming weather news network in the United States. The Weather Channel en Español is a free streaming service and available across over-the-top streaming platforms and all mobile devices. The content is focused on the U.S., the Caribbean and Latin America. The Weather Channel en Español is also accessible via The Weather Channel app.
“The Hispanic marketplace is indexing extremely well with streaming services and is severely underserved,” said Byron Allen, founder, chairman and CEO of The Weather Channel parent company, Allen Media Group. “Our launch of The Weather Channel en Español is historic, and is a recognition of the continued and significant growth of the U.S. Hispanic population and the constant need to keep the entire public informed and safe as multi-billion dollar weather disasters are on the rise – especially in communities where Spanish is spoken as both the primary and secondary language in millions of households throughout America.”
The first on-camera meteorologists to join The Weather Channel en Español are Albert Martinez, Henry Golac, Milmar Ramirez, Jessica Fernandez, Abel Hernandez and Lorena Lim.