Sam Champion has been a weatherman on local and national TV for nearly 30 years but Saturday marked his first Television Critics Assn. appearance as the new face of the Weather Channel.
Weather's session was aptly timed as the cabler has gone public with its carriage fight with satcaster DirecTV. Weather Channel communications chief Shirley Powell opened the session by detailing the company's efforts to sound the alarm with viewers and in Washington.
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"Congress really cares about this one," Powell said, citing Weather's long track record of working with governmental orgs as well as emergency responders in dangerous weather situations.
"We're counting on the public to get that message to DirecTV," Powell said.
David Clark, president of Weather Channel (which is co-owned by NBCUniversal and private equity companies), was pressed on the propriety of asking viewers to lobby Congress on behalf of a private business.
Clark cast the situation as a matter of public safety -- as evidenced by the intensity of the "polar vortex" storm that swept through the Midwest and Northeast just earlier this week.
"We have a mission to serve that we take very seriously," Clark said. You can't stand up a fly-by-night alternative to that and not believe that you're putting your audience at risk."
Champion, who left ABC's "Good Morning America" late last year to join Weather, underscored that sentiment. His new show will follow Al Roker's longstanding Weather Channel early-morning series "Wake Up With Al." Champion noted his excitement at being paired with his longtime "Today" competitor for the first time.
"I don't know about you but I can't live without Al," Champion said.