Weather Channel buys Weather Underground; brand stays

The largest weather news and information provider is about to get bigger. The Weather Channel Companies (TWCC), parent of the cable network and, is acquiring San Francisco-based Weather Underground with a pledge to keep the oldest internet weather brand going. That includes keeping the staff intact along with and its mobile apps. No details on the price; the deal is expected close this summer.

In addition to users and traffic, the acquisition brings the larger company deep expertise in weather research and development along with a community-centric approach. Real estate, too — The Weather Channel plans to use the SF headquarters as a regional office, according to the announcement Monday afternoon.

It’s the latest move for Chairman and CEO David Kenny, who was hired in January in a surprise leadership change. His charge: to invest more in programming, digital assets and international expansion. Weather Underground fits squarely in that second bucket. The Weather Channel Companies is a joint venture of NBC Universal (s cmcsa) (s cmcsk) and PE firms Bain Capital and The Blackstone Group.

ComScore pegs the unduplicated number for the sites at 54.6 million uniques based on May 2012 traffic. TWC is by far the larger with 49.8 million uniques compared to Weather Underground’s 9.8 million; TWC also has the largest weather presence online, already more than double Weather Bug, the next largest. (See the chart below for more details.)

Weather Underground started at the University of Michigan in 1991 as “a menu-based telnet interface.” The name came from, yes, the radical student group that also came from that university and took its name from Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues. The formal company dates back to 1995, when it spun out of UM and launched on the web.

Credit: comScoreMediaMetrix