NEW YORK -- Since arriving in Atlanta just a few weeks ago, Sam Champion hasn’t had much time to take in the local color, other than the overwhelming whiteness of snowstorms.
A rash of extreme weather across the nation has also kept him scrambling in his new role as Weather Channel managing editor.
Meanwhile, he’s readying his new Weather Channel morning program, which debuts March 17 and will return him to the a.m. scene where he hailed as weather anchor on ABC’s New York-based "Good Morning America."
During a phone conversation squeezed between his numerous duties, Champion shared details about the new show, including its title: "America’s Morning Headquarters with Sam Champion," or, for short, "AMHQ."
The three-hour broadcast will air weekdays at 7 a.m., "with a brand-new take," Champion said, "on what it takes to get America up and moving in the morning."
Alongside Champion will be fellow Weather Channel meteorologists Mike Bettes and Maria LaRosa, most recently co-anchors of "Morning Rush."
The conditions and forecasts they report will be graphically displayed in a way Champion describes as "almost like 3D, putting the viewer in the middle of this information. I think it’s something you haven’t seen before."
As AMHQ joins the breakfast-hour fray, going up against the Big Three morning shows plus abundant cable fare, it will frame information in a weather context. Yet-to-be-named presenters will bring viewers news, sports and even pop culture, but all with a weather spin.
"When you wake up, you get your first news, texts and updates on your smartphone and laptop, not television," Champion said. "What you need from TV is a very thorough understanding of what’s going on in your environment. Your weather needs become, ‘What’s it like right now, and every hour through the day for me and my home team as we’re heading out into the world?’ "
The traditional TV news shows can’t do that, he argues. For them, the news takes top priority and the bulk of available air-time.
"I may get 30 seconds, I might get a minute-20. I might be 17 minutes into the show," said Champion, citing past experience as the "Good Morning America" meteorologist. "But I think weather is a high priority for the audience. No matter what’s going on, it all starts with the weather. Weather information is what colors all of your planning, all of your decision-making, for the day to come."
Targeting time zones
While giving weather a national and even global perspective, each successive hour of AMHQ also will target a different time zone, with its final hour, which begins at 6 a.m. Pacific time, devoting special attention to Western viewers.
"By then, we’ll have gotten the East Coast and Middle America out the door," Champion explained. "That third hour will focus on what the West Coast needs to know as it wakes up."
He spoke of his long workdays (and a few nights spent at the Weather Channel studios) while acknowledging that show time for AMHQ was just a short month away.
"But I’ve been given the ability to create something with an excited team of people," he said. "Everybody’s in a room with a bunch of great ideas, and no one’s saying ‘no’ to each other. They’re saying, ‘Why CAN’T we create something great?’ "