I wonder if Heidi Cullen comes with the deal? 5 billion dollars seems a bit steep. Any takers?
The Weather Channel, one of the last privately owned cable channels, is being put up for sale and could fetch more than $5 billion, according to people briefed on the auction. The channel and its rapidly growing Web site, weather.com, are already attracting interest from some of the biggest names in media, including NBC, a unit of General Electric; the News Corporation; and Comcast, these people said.
The sale of the Weather Channel, these people said, is part of a larger breakup of its parent, Landmark Communications, a privately held company controlled by the Batten family of Norfolk, Va., which also owns daily newspapers and other media properties. Landmark’s newspaper holdings include The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, The News & Record of Greensboro, N.C., and The Roanoke Times in Virginia, as well as 50 other community newspapers. The company, which does not release its earnings, generated $1.75 billion in revenue in 2006 and has 12,000 employees, according to Hoover’s.
A spokesman for Landmark could not be reached.
The sale of the Weather Channel, once written off as a dull network for weather buffs, could become especially heated as it is one of the few remaining basic cable channels available for sale. One potential suitor approached by Landmark described the Weather Channel as “beachfront property.”
Its audience has mushroomed as the channel has expanded its coverage of hurricanes and others storms around the world and created programming about climate change, taking an aggressive and sometimes controversial role in the global warming debate.
The channel is also a godsend for advertisers. Like live sports, it is largely immune from TiVos and other digital video recorders. The channel has 800 employees; 125 are meteorologists.
Perhaps more appealing for some big media companies may be the Weather Channel’s Web business, which was started in 1995. Weather.com ranks as the nation’s 18th-largest media site by traffic, with more than 32 million unique users in November, according to Nielsen/NetRatings. That is bigger than CNN and Facebook. (more)