Monday, December 2, 2013

Sam Champion Leaves Good Morning America

The morning show wars continue to get more and more intriguing. Sam Champion has announced that he is leaving "GMA" to start his own morning show on the Weather Channel as well as take on a managerial role at the network. The news, first reported by FTVLive and TVNewser, has been met with a lot of shock and surprise.

Why would Sam leave stability at the #1 show in the morning? 1. Lifestyle change. According to FTVLive, Champion and his husband are trying to adopt a child. It's also no secret how much Champion loves the hot weather and being closer to Miami probably helped make the job transition a little easier. 2. Bigger role, more airtime. Because of the emergence of Josh and Lara, Sam's time was cut short more and more over the years. With this new move, Champion gets the chance to go in depth with his forecasts. It seems as though his show is going to be a weather version of HLN's Morning Express. He'll be traveling to remote locations many times which will give his show a new edge compared to the other shows on TV.

Who replaces Sam? Ginger Zee, Sam's protege, will have smooth transition to the top position. Luckily, viewers have become accustomed to her because of the amount of times she has subbed in for Sam. She's also developing chemistry with the rest of the crew pretty quickly, which is something that is essential to the show's success.

Is Al Roker's show gone from the Weather Channel? This has yet to be divulged but it's very unlikely. Al's early morning show will probably serve as a lead-in to Sam's show.

Possible format of Sam's show? I expect it to mostly involve weather (obviously), but I wouldn't be surprised if there were other news and talk elements included in the show since the show will air in the morning, which is typically the time of day when TV audiences get informed the most. The Weather Channel's press release took a key note on the amount of interviews and extracurricular activities which Champion has been involved with other than just forecasting so I'm sure TWC will play to those traits. As mentioned before, Champion will also take his show on the road a lot which adds a new dimension to the show.

How often will Sam appear on "The Today Show"? This is just an educated guess but I would have to say that it probably won't be that much. On Thursday or Friday, he might make a special appearance just so the audience sees that NBC welcomes a former rival with open arms. But other than that, we'll probably only see him occasionally filing reports for "Today" and "NN" during big weather stories. I wouldn't be surprised if he also did some weather bits during NBC's biggest events such as New Year's Eve, the Super Bowl, the Olympics etc. Champion will be based in Atlanta so his main focus will be, without a doubt, solely the Weather Channel.

What does this move mean for "GMA"? Well, for "GMA" fans, it definitely sucks. But this won't hurt "GMA" much because as mentioned before, there's a sense of familiarity among fans with Ginger Zee. The only way this affects "GMA" is if another member of the family leaves. It looks like Robin Roberts will be signing an extension with ABC News, but Lara Spencer and Josh Elliott are both going to be free agents soon. ABC needs to find a way to not only pay up but also find ways expand on Elliott and Spencer's job duties (something which they both desire).

How do you keep Josh and Lara happy at "GMA"? Extend the hours of "Good Morning America". They're already doing that right now on Yahoo!, but the internet has not progressed far enough to have the same reach as television. Another option is to bring back "Good Afternoon America," although it's unlikely affiliates will ever trust the network to help with daytime decisions ever again after the failure of the "Katie" show. Another possibility would be to start 9am and 10am telecasts of "GMA" on cable TV (Lifetime is a perfect option since it's a women's oriented network and is owned by Disney's good friends at Hearst Inc.)

Where could Josh and Lara possibly go if they leave "GMA"? There's no doubt in my mind that NBC would love to take hold of Elliott and place him on "The Today Show" to serve as another possible protege to Matt Lauer. The problem is that there's no space for him. Lara, on the other hand, could leave to go to a cable network who wants to start their own morning show or head to HLN and fill out their afternoon hours with some "pop news".

What should we look for? It's going to be interesting to see if "GMA" survives this change in stability as the ratings fight gets even tougher vs. "The Today Show". It's also ironic how much this move hurts CNN especially since Chris Cuomo and Sam Champion had a "bromance" before Josh Elliott came into the picture. The political season is beginning to jump into high gear with the 2014 midterms approaching which helps "Morning Joe" and a trusted face, who can provide news and weather quicker than CNN, will be on the Weather Channel. This move hurts "New Day"'s chances of surviving in the long-term.

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