The Player: Burke forecasts expansion for Weather Channel brand

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Bill Burke and his colleagues were on a grounded plane as it rained cats and dogs. "I can't believe this weather," a passenger said. "Yeah, and we've got a bunch of Weather Channel people on the plane," responded another. Quickly, Mr. Burke kicked his bag with The Weather Channel's logo further under his seat.

Mr. Burke often finds people blame the forecasters for the weather. "If we could control it, we'd have quite a business," he said.

That, of course, is one area The Weather Channel Cos.-led by Mr. Burke who joined as president in February-won't be able to crack. But other frontiers are on the radar screen. Besides the cable network in 85 million homes and the Web site with the weather.com address, Mr. Burke is trying to make the company an omnipresent weather info provider. "We're trying to reach consumers in whatever manner makes sense to them," he said. "So as people started moving to the Web to get information, we were right there with this killer URL and this great product that continues to grow. As people are moving into getting information on PDAs and cell phones, we are on all of those platforms."

At 36, Mr. Burke is among the tech-savvy, next generation of top TV executives already leading a major enterprise. The Weather Channel generated $179 million in ad revenue last year, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR.

Mr. Burke got an early start at a stratospheric level of the media business. Soon after Harvard Business School, he helped launch Turner Classic Movies, then at 29 became president of TBS Superstation. "The age was irrelevant because the guy was so good at what he did," said Jim Weiss, a Turner colleague.

Mr. Burke's background in entertainment dovetails with his plans to launch a documentary series on The Weather Channel in January called "Storm Stories" that will chronicle the impact of tornadoes, hurricanes, and perfect storms. Still, Mr. Burke wants to makes sure the network continues to be known principally as a trusted outlet for non-stop info.

trusted

The Weather Channel, owned by privately held Landmark Communications, has built consumer trust through a certain authenticity. The set is spartan compared to the glitz of a CNN or New York street-level studio. The weathercasters are all meteorologists who, while dressed professionally, aren't likely to make the pages of GQ or Vogue. And there are no names like New York weatherman Storm Field (though the head of meteorology-who's no longer on air-is Ray Ban). "They are meteorologists who know their stuff and they don't overhype the information," Mr. Burke said.

He joined Weather Channel after two years with Resort Sports Network (available in ski-resort towns). Before that, he spent eight years at Turner and what has become AOL Time Warner (his last post was head of news & information for Time Warner Digital Media). He left Time Warner a week before the AOL merger was announced and joined RSN two months later.

Fast Facts

Name: Bill Burke

Age: 36

Now: President- The Weather Channel Cos.

Challenge: Reach atmospheric domination of weather information.

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