In a surprise move, The Weather Channel Companies is swapping out CEOs. David Kenny is replacing Mike Kelly as CEO effective immediately; the Akamai-Digitas vet also will be chairman of the company owned by a consortium of Bain Capital, The Blackstone Group, and NBC (NSDQ: CMCSA) Universal.
It appears so far that this is less about any issues with Kelly’s performance and more about getting Kenny. Kelly will become an advisor to TWCC and to Bain, and Kenny begins in his new role effectively immediately.
Kelly had been CEO of TWCC since July 2009 and other past roles have included head of media at AOL (NYSE: AOL). Kenny, meanwhile, brings with him some skills that could help TWCC’s growth in the years ahead. He comes from streaming and content delivery giant Akamai (NSDQ: AKAM), where he had been president. Prior to that, Kenny racked up of years of experience in digital marketing and interactive advertising: he co-founded VivaKi, the digital and television arm of Publicis Groupe, and he was chairman and CEO Digitas Inc. He also sits on the board of Yahoo.
In an interview with paidContent a few moments ago, Kenny said that the offer of a CEO job had come out of initial conversations for him to join the board of The Weather Channel. “We’d been talking about how to move faster on programming and other areas,” and that gradually progressed to the subject of Kenny taking on a bigger role.
He told paidContent that the three key areas he hopes to focus on as CEO are to invest more in programming, digital assets and international expansion. In programming, the emphasis will be on making more long-form content, while the mobile apps and the website will focus on more basic weather information. Both of these are largely ad-supported at the moment, and Kenny said this is how they will remain.
As for international, this is where you can see the Akamai content delivery expertise coming into view: “TWCC has been more focused on the U.S. up to now, but there is an opportunity globally and I believe you will see a much more global enterprise going forward,” he said.
In a departing internal memo to staff, which paidContent has obtained and is copying below, Kelly gave Kenny a full endorsement in the role: “TWCC will be in good hands with David Kenny at the helm,” he wrote. He noted also that the pair have been good friends for many years.
Under Kelly, TWCC has seen some huge growth in its digital media business — specifically around its many apps for mobile devices.
Being about weather — a subject that is continually changing — these apps have picked up a particularly loyal following.
At paidContent’s mobile conference last year, Kelly noted that mobile users use The Weather Channel’s apps 26 days a month, with 30 million of the company’s apps getting downloaded in 2010. Overall reach for the company, as reported last year, was 35 million people, covering access from TVs, PCs, and mobile devices. During one period last year the company launched 10 separate apps in 11 weeks.
As you know, this morning we announced a change in leadership for TWCC. As we make this transition, let me take a moment to thank you for making the last two and a half years such a pleasant and rewarding experience.
I came to The Weather Channel with many goals, including building a strong team, developing long term plans and moving the business forward. A part of these efforts included our “one company” initiatives, which I believe have been a tremendous success. I’m proud of these accomplishments and even more proud of the teamwork it took to get it all done. I will continue to be involved in the company, serving as a special adviser to David and the Board of Directors and I will also serve as an adviser to Bain Capital.
TWCC will be in good hands with David Kenny at the helm. We’ve been friends for many years and I am certain he is the leader who will keep things moving forward and secure a great future for the company.
Thank you again for your hard work and dedication. We’ve come a long way together and we’ve seen the power of one company and the power of vision and values. In the past years, we’ve seen record viewership and page views and saw our mobile business reach unimaginable heights. The resulting economic growth has put us in a strong position. Thanks for the great teamwork. Keep growing.