The Weather Channel is flooding the zone of morning television by adding one of the nation’s most popular weather trackers to a time slot that already has several of them.
The cable network is making Jim Cantore a co-host on “AMHQ,” its daily morning show that has been hosted since its inception by former “Good Morning America” weatherman Sam Champion, while also expanding the program to weekends. “AMHQ” airs at 7 a.m. and is preceded by “Wake Up With Al” featuring “Today” meteorologist Al Roker, meaning Weather Channel will boast three of the nation’s best-known weather forecasters every weekday morning. Cantore will join the morning lineup January 26.
At the heart of the maneuver is a desire on the part of Weather Channel executives to grow stronger amid a clutch of morning programs on cable networks and local TV stations, said David Clark, the network’s president, in an interview. “We are not satisfied. It’s early days with the show. Morning television is a marathon,” said Clark. “We need to be a steady habit for people, and that’s what we are moving toward.”
Weather Channel caused a storm of sorts in late 2013 when it poached Champion from the ABC morning program, which had surged past NBC’s “Today” as the nation’s most-watched morning-news show. Champion had appeared on “GMA”since 2006, but the Weather Channel offer provided more money, a chance to gain a managing editor title and the opportunity to be closer to family. “AMHQ” debuted in March of last year.
Executives at the network had in recent months begun to discern a rapport between Champion and Cantore, said Clark, particularly when Cantore made “AMHQ” appearances. In mid-fall, the network started to consider the idea more seriously, even having Champion and Cantore co-host a few evening specials. “It really zinged. It really worked,” said Clark. The new arrangement does not require a reworking of anyone’s current contract, he said.
Cantore, who has gained a fan base by holding forth in the midst of storms and raging winds, will not be stuck indoors when torrents of snow and rain start to swell elsewhere. “Jim will always be out in the weather when it’s happening,” Clark said.
The duo will be joined by meteorologist Jennifer Delgado, who Clark said arrives with “a big personality” and the ability to hold her own with the others.
“AMHQ” has been keeping viewers longer than programming that was previously in its time slot. The average time viewers spent with the program in December was 32 minutes, up 3% from a year ago, according to Weather Channel data.. Meantime, the length of tune in for people between the ages of 25 and 54, the demographic most coveted by advertisers in news programming, was 16.3 minutes, up 6% from a year earlier.
But “AMHQ” brings in fewer ad dollars than its competitors, according to data from Kantar Media. “AMHQ,”which was not on the air as long as its rivals in 2014, snared approximately $16.5 million between its launch and the end of September. MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” notched about $19.6 million in the first nine months of the year, according to Kantar. HLN’s “Morning Express with Robin Meade” lured about $22.9 million in the same time period, while CNN’s “New Day”captured about $43.2 million and Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends” lured about $48.9 million.
Weather Channel will launch a weekend edition of the show as part of an effort to appeal to viewers planning leisure time. The new weekend edition will air from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. Eastern will be hosted by meteorologists Kait Parker and Reynolds Wolf. The extension will launch January 31. “We haven’t focused on it enough,” he said of weekend mornings.
Two other “AMHQ” staffers will be getting new roles at Weather Channel as a result of the shuffle. Maria LaRosa will be getting her own show and time slot on the network as part of the new weekend focus, while Mike Bettes is slated to host a new evening program starting in late March.