Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Frank Batten, Founder of The Weather Channel RIP

Somehow I missed the news last September on the passing of the great Frank Batten. He was Chairman of Landmark Communications and was responsible for the creation of one of the greatest cable channels of all times, The Weather Channel. He was ahead of his time in relation to technology, having grown up in the newspaper industry and originally wishing to launch an all news cable channel, but Ted Turner beat him to the punch. He was a great businessman obviously, and here are two quotes worth mentioning;

"I think that most accomplishments in organizations are officially the result of teamwork rather than a brilliant performance by one person," Batten said in a 2005 Associated Press oral history interview.

"Accomplishing teamwork is another matter," he added. "That's not easy, I think. And again it gets down to creating an environment in which people work successfully in teams, and are recognized for it." 

Here's what Mr. Batten said about The Weather Channel recently before he died:

" I felt strongly that the new channel must include local forecasts--about one minute in 10. Technicians working for me made that happen. Still the Weather Channel flirted with bankruptcy until we hit on the idea to supplement traditional advertising with subscriber fees from cable companies. That made the difference".  Said Howard Stevenson, a Harvard business professor where Batten earned his MBA, " Frank was a newsman at heart, he wasn't in the Weather Channel for the breathless "oh we just avoided the storm of the century coverage". He always said that people turned to the Weather Channel for the quality of the forecasting. And that's what he gave them". 

Laugh all you want about me respecting this guy more than any other big time cable business person. Frank Batten created his own niche market and executed his idea beautifully well. What was really cool is that Landmark kept The Weather Channel independent for all those years, only recently selling it to NBC Universal right before his death.

Here is a link to his fascinating life in his obituary: