IBM Buys Cobb-Based Weather Company: Weather Channel Not Part Of Deal

Roger Tutterow
Roger Tutterow

KENNESAW, Ga. (Feb 3, 2016) — The Weather Channel you see on your TV isn’t going away, despite the acquisition by IBM of its parent corporation —the Cobb County-based Weather Company, officials said Wednesday.

Ditto for the temperature and other data on your smart phone.

And no employees are going anywhere, either, Cameron Clayton, the newly appointed CEO and general manager of The Weather Company, told the Marietta Daily Journal.

IBM announced Jan. 29 that the deal had closed. No financial details were divulged.

Clayton said The Weather Company “was already operating as two distinct units — television and product and technology, prior to the IBM acquisition.”

He said the Armonk, N.Y.-based technology behemoth acquired only product and technology, so people who worked in those departments now are IBM employees.

The Weather Channel cable television network remains owned by Bain, Blackstone & NBC Universal, he said.

That means about 950 employees have moved over to IBM, and about 400 remain on the TV side, he said.

“Also, no employees will need to relocate offices,” Clayton said. “Both The Weather Company and The Weather Channel will remain in the current (Cobb County) building, (but) on separate floors.”

In short, Weather Channel on-camera meteorologists are employees of The Weather Channel cable network. Weather Channel apps and run on power from The Weather Company, an IBM business unit.

“Consumers will likely not see any difference when watching The Weather Channel, using, The Weather Channel apps or The Weather Underground properties,” Clayton said. “The Weather Channel will still provide The Weather Channel cable network with weather forecast data and information, so it will be a fairly seamless transition, particularly for our viewers and users.”

He also said the deal will help The Weather Company expand globally.

“The combination of The Weather Company’s powerful data platform and IBM advanced cognitive and analytics technologies will create capabilities for businesses that no other provider can replicate,” he said. “Our combined companies are uniquely positioned to solve problems on a global scale, across virtually any industry. It’s a hugely exciting time for Weather.”

In IBM parlance, The Weather Company, best known for The Weather Channel, is “migrating its weather data platform to IBM Cloud.”

Roger Tutterow, professor of economics and director of the Econometric Center at Kennesaw State University, said The Weather Channel was rebranded as The Weather Company a few years ago in recognition that “it had business-oriented data capacities that were very different from just delivering media.”

IBM’s interest is in owning the data and technology tools that have been developed over time for predictive purposes, Tutterow said.

“That’s because for a lot of businesses, successful forecasting of the weather is very valuable,” he said. “You’d think about retail and transportation. This transaction represents the ongoing transformation of IBM from a mainframe hardware company to one that can emphasize its consulting and technical services.”

The good news for Cobb County is “we still maintain the recognition of the media side” and rebranding employees as IBMers won’t “result in any reduction in headcount” in the area, Tutterow said.

The deal represents a major shakeup in the weather industry. IBM said it is interested in the company’s “big data” platform, which powers both The Weather Company apps in addition to serving up data for 26 billion third-party requests each day.

What makes this acquisition intriguing is the potential combined power of the Weather Company’s treasure trove of meteorological data and IBM’s artificial intelligence computer, Watson.

Insurance companies, for example, may now be able to alert policyholders by text message about impending storms and even direct them to safe areas. And retailers would know in advance that they need more shovels and blankets.

“The combination of technology and expertise from the two companies will serve as the foundation for the Watson LoT Cloud Platform, building on a $3 billion commitment IBM made in March 2015 to invest in the Internet of Things,” IBM said in a statement. “The deal broadly extends the scale and capability of IBM’s cloud data services platform and expands The Weather Company’s enterprise services capabilities and consumer reach to a global scale, including plans to bring to new major markets such as China and India.”

John E. Kelly, IBM’s senior vice president of cognitive solutions and research, said clients will be able to gain “significant competitive advantage as they link their business and sensor data with weather and other pertinent information in real time.”

David Kenny, formerly chairman and CEO of The Weather Company, assumes leadership of the IBM Watson platform business, IBM said.

-Marietta Daily Journal