Sam Champion, the veteran weatherman at ABC’s “Good Morning America,” is leaving the post he has held there since 2006, in order to join The Weather Channel as a on-air host and its managing editor. He will also anchor a new flagship morning program at the cable network starting in 2014.
The new program, which the cable network said will be “a multi-hour” program, is part of a larger “relaunch” effort that began last week. As part of that process, Weather Channel debuted new on-air graphics as well as a new local weather update every eight minutes. The cable net is owned by a consortium of investors that include NBCUniversal and private equity firms The Blackstone Group and Bain Capital.
The move threatens to shake up the routine at ABC’s flagship morning program, which is enjoying continued wind after toppling NBC’s “Today” in the ratings over a year ago. Aside from viewer interest in co-anchor Robin Roberts ongoing recovery from a bone-marrow transplant to treat myelodysplastic syndrome, another top factor often cited in the program’s rise was viewer comfort with its regulars, including Champion.
In addition to covering the national forecast for ‘GMA,’ Champion frequently traveled to cover weather-related stories around the country, including reports on Super Storm Sandy, for which, along with other coveage, ABC News won a coveted Peabody Award. Champion has also covered the devastating tornado in Joplin, MO; wildfires in California; hurricanes in Florida, Texas, Louisiana, and the Carolinas; and winter storm systems in Colorado, Denver, Chicago and Boston. He has also reported on teh environment and climate change, and is expected to continue to do so at The Weather Channel.
In a memo to staff issued Monday, ABC News President Ben Sherwood said meteorologist Ginger Zee will assume Champion’s duties on both “Good Morning America” and across ABC News, where she will also assume his role as editor of weather-related content. “As you know, Ginger always rushes straight toward the eye of any storm and weaves cutting-edge science with human emotion to elevate our coverage,” Sherwood said.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to do what I love most at a network that lives and breathes the weather,” Champion said in a prepared statement, calling the decision to leave ABC “extremely difficult.” Including time spent with WABC as an on-air weather personality, he had been with ABC for a quarter of a century. he began his TV career at a local station in Kentucky.
In an intriguing wrinkle, the hire of Champion will put two of the nation’s best-known weather personalities – Champion and his “Today” rival Al Roker, on the same network. Roker currently hosts “Wake Up With Al,” which airs weekdays at 6 a.m. on the cable outlet.
Champion will be based in Atlanta while working for The Weather Channel. His last day at “GMA” will be Wednesday.