How Sam Champion's Changing the Morning Show Routine
By Adam Coppola
What does the forecast look like for Emmy-winning weatherman Sam Champion? After a combined 25 years with ABC, Champion left his weather anchor gig at Good Morning America in Dec. 2013 to start a new opportunity as on-air host and managing editor of The Weather Channel in Atlanta.
He’s now set to premiere his new three-hour morning show, America’s Morning Headquarters with Sam Champion (AMHQ), aiming to prepare viewers not only for their weather, but to give them a look ahead at the news and events that will determine their days.
Sam’s taking some time from his busy schedule to answer some questions for ETonline...
ET: HOW WILL THE SHOW’S FORMAT CHANGE THE WAY PEOPLE GET THEIR WEATHER AND OTHER NEWS?
SAM: I think we can change the way you get your weather and the way you get your news because America is telling us that they want it to change. I think morning shows, kind of were built for your grandfather and even your father, but the way we wake up in the morning is a whole different ball game now. For the next generation of TV users, phone and tablet users, those kids that are in their teens and 20’s, they’re not all about television as getting their first line of information. So we have to deliver information in a way that works for everybody. We think that one of the things you don’t get full knowledge of in any platform, even though we do it better than anyone else, is your weather, the weather around you. You may know there’s a storm coming later today, but our goal is to make sure you know the timing of that, so you understand how to plan around that.
ET: WHAT CAN VIEWERS EXPECT WHEN THEY TUNE IN TO AMHQ?
SAM: We’re starting with weather. We’re going to start with every weather story in the nation and basically educate you with the best live shots, the best pictures, the best video, and the best experts. You’re going to get knowledge of every part of the country, what the weather is doing, and how it’s going to impact you today or tomorrow, or when that storm will get to you no matter where you are in the country. That’s live and fresh for three hours, but it’s not time delayed. Also, we’re going to do some news for you; here’s what’s happening right now. Here are the stories that you’re likely to be talking about, need to know, or are going to be headlines by today and tonight. Then we want you to know your sports information, so let’s say games you might not have watched to their completion last night and the games that are happening today and tomorrow, what’s the forward thinking? We’re going to do the same thing with business; we’re going to tell you what that business story is and give you some forward thinking headline, all of that so you don’t have to search.
ET: HOW DO YOU PLAN TO KICK OFF THE SHOW ON MARCH 17?
SAM: The Weather Channel has people at weather events all across the country all the time. We have the capability of being flexible and live and we’re going to use it. On St. Patrick’s Day, we feel like it’s a perfect Monday to launch, why not? We’re going to launch the show there (Atlanta) and have our people and our cameras out at St. Patrick’s Day events and other places. We’ll be able to dip in and out of those moments for our audience as well and to me what that signals to people is we’re not a show that happens in the studio, we’re a show that happens outside in America.
ET: CAN WE EXPECT TO SEE ANY CELEBRITY GUESTS STOPPING BY?
SAM: I know that celebrity talk is a big thing that happens on morning shows, but I’m not sure how the audience feels about it. I’m not sure if it’s time filler for them or whether they feel like they’re really getting something, a conversation with someone who they want to hear. I don’t think they’ll be in the mix every day. If the audience tells us they want more of it, we’ll give them more of it.
ET: WHAT DREW YOU TO METEOROLOGY EARLY ON?
SAM: Totally by accident, I didn’t plan on it. I wanted to be a foreign correspondent. I wanted to cover news in the world where it was happening because that was my version of TV when I grew up; that’s what TV news was, it was the exciting job. You do the grunt work in your first job in television and you do everything people throw at you, and one of my first jobs was to build weather graphics for the meteorologist. It was a brand new platform, building computer weather graphics and I was totally turned on and tuned in to the visual aspect of weather. Finally for the first time, I was interested in it through how you could tell it graphically…when you can do that visually, you’ve got me, I was captivated and I couldn’t leave it.It’s still the way I think about doing weather today, I think about it visually and I want to show people how this makes a difference in planning their day.
ET: WHAT’S YOUR CRAZIEST, MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT FROM YOUR CAREER?
SAM: One of the things I got a chance to do for a little while in network television was environmental reporting. We were out in an area that was called Crystal River, Florida and it was called that because it was so clear, you could see all the way to the bottom. Now, because of all the farming runoff, silt, and mud, Crystal River is a muddy river and you can’t really see anything. We were going to do a story about manatees and they were very concerned that I not touch the manatees. I don’t know how much you know about manatees, but the first thing you don’t want to do is squeeze one. Of course, I was getting in the water going “Oh my God, I just want to squeeze one of the manatees!” We were looking for this manatee that’s been tagged and is swimming around…I’m under water and I can’t see a damn thing. In that moment, the manatee we were looking for comes up between my legs and lifts me up as if I’m riding a horse, through the top of the water! I come out of the water screaming, “Yahoooo!” I’m so excited, I couldn’t believe it! Then my next line was, “I’m not touching it, I swear I’m not touching it!” It’s the environmental reporting like that which gives you those moments and those thrills of a lifetime. I’ll never forget that moment! That was the first time I had a chance, and probably the only time, to interact with one in the wild and to me, that was one of the most amazing experiences.
AMHQ with Sam Champion premieres Monday, March 17 at 7 a.m. ET on The Weather Channel.