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The weirdly sensical business of weather TV

July 7, 2021, 2:29 PM UTC

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On most mornings, I wake up to the dulcet, mechanical tones of Amazon’s Alexa reporting the weather of the day.

It is occasionally entirely incorrect, but it is free and it does the job. It reports when a massive, life-threatening tropical storm is barreling toward New York City, for instance. Unfortunately for the weather television business, it is this attitude that has atrophied much of its value-add: For many consumers, information on when it will rain and how hard is readily available through smart phones and other devices at no additional cost. 

So who the heck would pay $4.99 a month solely to stream weather news? 

Allen Media Company, the business behind the Weather Channel that sees itself as something of a private equity company acquiring media organizations, is betting that people will. 

Having bought the Weather Channel from Comcast, Blackstone, and Bain Capital for $300 million in 2018, Allen Media Group last week revealed plans to launch a subscription-video service in the final quarter of this year dubbed Weather Channel Plus. For nearly $5, viewers will get some other news and entertainment channels, but primarily, weather is the core offering. And Allen Media Group isn’t alone! Fox is set to debut its own 24-hour streaming service focused again on meteorology later this year.

It may sound absurd. A few years ago, when the Weather Channel was being sold to Allen Media Company, it was clear that the business was struggling. Advertising was its lifeblood, but consumers were (and still are) cutting cords. “Once in more than 95 million homes, the Weather Channel’s national distribution has fallen over the past decade to just over 80 million homes,” a Wall Street Journal article in early 2018 noted. 

But there’s a strange and rather depressing reality as to why investors are seeing opportunity in this niche area of television. Extreme weather events have been on the rise as a result of climate change, reshaping the economy and impacting issues including food prices, home buying, and insurance rates. Western Canada recently faced a record-breaking heat wave as Hurricane Elsa hits Florida Wednesday. Folks are checking the weather daily if not hourly.

Per Michael M. Grynbaum over at the New York Times

“At CNN, MSNBC and Fox News, average viewership for the first half of 2021 fell 38 percent from a year prior. The audience for the Weather Channel was up 7 percent.

‘All the networks are ramping up for this,’ said Jay Sures, a co-president of United Talent Agency who oversees its TV division. ‘It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that climate change and the environment will be the story of the next decade.’ One of his firm’s clients, Ginger Zee, the chief meteorologist at ABC News, now has 2.2 million Twitter followers — more than any ABC News personality besides George Stephanopoulos.”

BOX-ING MATCH: Activist investor Starboard Value acquired a stake in digital storage company Box about two years ago. Recently however, the relationship has soured with Starboard saying the company has underperformed, and that it would prefer new members on the board of directors. Box of course has fired back, saying it has tried hard to accommodate the investor. On Tuesday, Box urged investors to vote for the company’s nominees for the board of directors rather than Starboard Values. Box also said that Starboard had been trying to remove CEO Aaron Levie for the past seven months. Read more.

Lucinda Shen
Twitter: 
@shenlucinda
Email: 
lucinda.shen@fortune.com

Jessica Mathews compiled the IPO section of the newsletter.

VENTURE DEALS

- AnyVision, an Israeli startup with an A.I.-based vision platform, raised $235 million in  Series C funding. SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2 and Eldridge Industries led the round.

- Outbrain, a New York City-based ad recommendation company, raised $200 million in funding from The Baupost Group.

- Aleph Farms, an Israel-based cultivated meat company growing steaks directly from non-genetically modified animal cells, raised $105 million in Series B funding. L Catterton led the round and was joined by investors including DisruptAD.

- Skedulo, a San Francisco-based productivity software company, raised $75 million in Series C funding. SoftBank Vision Fund 2 led the round.

- Deep Instinct, the New York City-based cybersecurity startup, raised $68 million from Chrysalis Investments.

- Lacuna Technologies, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup making tech for transportation policies, raised $16 million in Series A funding. Xplorer Capital Management led the round and was joined by investors including PlayGround Global

- Zerion, San Francisco-based decentralized investing finance startup, raised $8.2 million in Series A funding. Mosaic Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Placeholder, DCG, Lightspeed, and Blockchain.com Ventures.

- Arena Innovation, a New York City-based training startup, raised $5.2 million in seed funding. Investors include Courtside Ventures, Powerhouse Capital, and Wellness Holding.

- Arcade, a Dallas-based software provider focused on gamifying revenue, raised $4.5 million. Stage 2 Capital led the round and was joined by investors including Revolution's Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, Our Innovation Fund, and ATX Venture Partners. 

- Loupedeck, a Finnish-based startup editing consoles for streamers and content creators, raised €2  million. zVentures led the round.

- 10Web, a maker of a website building A.I., raised $2 million. Sierra Ventures and AI Fund invested.

PRIVATE EQUITY

- Blackstone agreed to acquire Sphera, a Chicago-based EST software, data, and consulting services, from Genstar Capital. The deal values it at $1.4 billion.

- Altaris Capital Partners acquired Padagis, a generic prescription pharmaceuticals business of Perrigo Company (NYSE: PRGO), for about$1.6 billion.

- Arcline Investment Management acquired a controlling stake in Air Comm Corporation, a Westminster, Colo.-based maker of heating and air systems, in a deal that values it at $250 million.

Crest Rock Partners made a majority investment in CloudNine, a Houston, Tx.-based software suite for legal professionals. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Flexpoint Ford and Vestar Capital Partners agreed to acquire Lereta, a Los Angeles-based provider of real estate tax and flood services for mortgage servicers. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Graycliff Partners acquired Gold Tech Industries, a Tempe, Ariz.-based metal finishing and plating services for the semiconductor and aerospace industries. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Sun Capital Partners acquired LoanLogics, a Jacksonville, Fla.-based mortgage tech company. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

EXITS

- Siris Capital Group agreed to acquire Armor Holdco, Inc., the parent company of American Stock Transfer & Trust Company, for $595 million.

- Huntington Ingalls Industries (NYSE:HII) agreed to acquire Alion Science and Technology, McLean, Va.-based for $1.7 billion in cash from Veritas Capital.

OTHER

- Suitors including Apple have shown interest in Hello Sunshine, the media company behind “Big Little Lies,” founded by actress Reese Witherspoon. The company is seeking a valuation of $1 billion, per the Wall Street Journal.

IPOS

- Membership Collective Group, the company behind London-based membership club Soho House, now plans to raise up to $480 million in a U.S. offering of 30 million shares, priced between $14 and $16 per share. Yucaipa backs the firm.

- Traeger, a Salt Lake City, Utah-based barbecue grill company, filed for an initial public offering. AEA Investors, the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan and Trilantic Capital Partners back the firm.

- The Better Being Co., a Salt Lake City, Utah-based vitamin, supplement and wellness company, filed for an initial public offering. HGGC and Snapdragon Capital Partners back the firm.

- Rotech Healthcare Holdings, an Orlando, Fla.-based medical equipment company, filed for an initial public offering. Capital Group, Silver Point Capital and Venor Capital Management back the firm.

- Preston Hollow Community Capital, a Dallas, Texas-based local community financing solution company, filed for an initial public offering. Stone Point Capital and affiliates of HarbourVest Partners back the firm.

- Teads, an Amsterdam-based advertising technology company, filed for an initial public offering in the U.S. French telecommunications company Altice acquired the firm in 2017.

- Authentic Brands Group, a New York City-based brand management company that owns Forever 21, Brooks Brothers and others, filed for an initial public offering. BlackRock as well as Leonard Green & Partners and General Atlantic back the firm.

- Chobani, a Norwich, New York-based yogurt and food company, confidentially filed for an

SPAC

- Nettar Group, a New York City-based satellite data collection company, agreed to merge with CF Acquisition Corp. V (Nasdaq: CFV), a SPAC, valuing it at $850 million.

F+FS

- StepStone Group agreed to acquire Greenspring Associates, an Owings Mills, Md.-based  venture capital and private equity investor, for $725 million ($185 million in cash and $540 million in equity) plus up to a $75 million potential earnout payable in 2025.

- Vistria Group, the Chicago-based private equity firm, raised $2.7 billion for Fund IV.

- Renegade Partners, a San Francisco bay-area venture firm cofounded by Renata Quintini and Roseanne Wincek raised $100 million for its debut venture fund.

- LongWater Opportunities, a Dallas-based private equity firm, closed its third fund with $100 million.

PEOPLE

- Battery Ventures, a Boston-based investor, named Sudheendra Chilappagari as a vice president.

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