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Weather Channel buys Weather Underground; brand stays

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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

6 Responses to “Weather Channel buys Weather Underground; brand stays”

  1. Only barely on topic but I thought I would share an anecdote — I was chief technician for a cable television system when The Weather Channel debuted in about 1982. The only reason we put it on the system was because we had capacity but not enough content. We were obligated to install measuring devices on our tower and to provide that information to viewers during the local ‘weather on the 8s’. The devices could be wildly inaccurate, something our most devoted weather-centric viewers always let us know. TWC created a lot of headaches for us and we doubted it could ever be successful – boy were we wrong! John Coleman had a vision and is largely responsible for the way weather is presented today. He is a good weatherman and a terrific entrepreneur (though not much of a climatologist).

    • Brendan Lane Larson

      Congratulations are in order to fellow Internet-weather pioneers Alan Steremberg et al of Wunderground! Regarding TWC, John Coleman (who I have met in person several times in the past) was an excellent visionary – many people didn’t believe him that an around-the-clock dedicated cable TV weather channel would be a success. But John needed someone to take on substantial risk capital. The latter was mostly provided by the late Frank Battan (Landmark). John is also America’s quintessential TV weatherman.

    • Staci D. Kramer

      If TWCC holds to its plans, wunderground,com should continue to offer the kind of weather info you currently get there. There’a always an “if” in deals like this but I wouldn’t assume the worst.

      • steve

        staci, i think the “if” is when several months go by and “if” no one notices, then they’ll rebrand under the guise of “streamlining the brand”.

        • Staci D. Kramer

          That’s always possible — we’ve certainly seen it happen. It will need to roll up for traffic but I’d expect the brand to stay longer than a few months.