The former "Good Morning America" weatherman, who debuts the three-hour "AMHQ" on The Weather Channel on Monday, says he wants to invent a new kind of morning show. (The show will air weekdays at 7 a.m. Eastern.) His plan is to appeal to the weather geek while not ignoring the rest of the world, with an agenda driven by social media.
"I don't know if we have the right answers yet," he said a few days before the premiere, "but we're working on it."
The Weather Channel has put its faith behind Champion, naming him the network's managing editor along with morning host. "AMHQ" will absorb some aspects of the current morning show, including meteorologist Mike Bettes, with news anchor Anaridis Rodriguez and meteorologist Maria LaRosa as the other featured players.
Morning is prime time at The Weather Channel, which has its headquarters in Atlanta, when many of its fans check in to see what the day has to offer.
"People are already flooding in the door, but they are leaving pretty quickly," said David Clark, network president. "This is about putting on a full show and getting them to stay."
That means going beyond the weather to talk a little about news, sports and pop culture. The sports coverage won't rival ESPN, for example, but it will be enough so people can feel socially competent when they go to work, Clark said.
With news, Champion wants to "forecast the day," or talk whenever possible about things coming up that will affect the day's biggest stories. He'd like social media — what stories people are talking about online — to drive his show's news agenda more than it does for traditional news programs.
The way people consume information has dramatically changed over the past decade and television hasn't fully responded, he said.
Champion won't forget the network he's working for. Each of the show's three hours will be led by a 15-minute discussion of the day's biggest weather stories.
"We will cover every weather story with live team reporting, with live images, the best pictures, the best experts and the best graphic forecasts," he said. "You will have a thorough analysis of every weather story on the board. It is not just a 30-second drive-by of our national weather."
Just removed from the bitter competition for viewers between the New York-based "Good Morning America" on ABC and NBC's "Today" show, Champion has an inside view of how they operate.
"The popular morning shows do everything the same way," he said. "If somebody puts in a social media box, someone else puts in a social media box. If someone does pop news at 8 o'clock, someone else does pop news at 8 o'clock. If someone does 'Deals & Steals' at 8:36, someone else does 'Steals & Deals' at 8:36."
For "AMHQ," ''we didn't sit down and design a show that tries to be like the other shows," he said. "What we tried to do is design a show that realizes the audience is already partially informed when they turn the TV on. It's not their first connection to the world. We want to be fast-paced, we don't want to waste your time, but we want to tell you the things that you're probably going to want to know more about."
On St. Patrick's Day, with live remotes from celebration sites in New York and Chicago, Champion's vision will come to light.
David Bauder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter@bauder. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/david-bauder
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