NBC Universal takes inside track on Weather Channel purchase

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NBC Universal and its partners are one step closer to purchasing the Weather Channel.

The company said Friday that it had been picked by the Weather Channel's owner, Virginia-based Landmark Communications, to take the next step in negotiations for the acquisition. It won out over other suitors, including Time Warner, for that right. Time Warner reportedly dropped out of the bidding last week.

"The consortium made up of NBC Universal and the private-equity firms of Blackstone and Bain have been selected to participate in exclusive negotiations to purchase the Weather Channel," an NBC Uni spokesman said.

This doesn't mean that NBC Uni automatically has won the bidding. It is a multistep process that will continue until the companies reach a deal or not.

"It's one step in the process," Landmark Communications vice chairman Richard Barry said Friday. Barry and NBC Uni declined comment about a timeline or expiration date for the negotiations. Barry also declined to discuss why Time Warner was out of the running. Landmark said it wouldn't make any more statements until a decision had been reached.

"We're now negotiating exclusively" with the NBC Uni group, he said.

Time Warner couldn't be reached for comment late Friday, though the bidding has been deemed too rich for several major media companies. NBC Uni, however, has built a stake in the weather space already with its NBCWeatherPlus service, and there would be corporate synergies between the Weather Channel, NBCWeatherPlus and even MSNBC and CNBC.

The Atlanta-based Weather Channel Cos. include its cable networks, Weather.com, Enterprise Electronics and an interest in the Canadian weather company Pelmorex. (partialdiff)
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