Weather Channel closer to NBC's umbrella

NBC Uni, private equity firms in exclusive negotiations

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

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

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

"It's one step in the process," Landmark Communications vice chairman Richard Barry said by telephone Friday night. Neither Barry nor NBC Uni would comment about a timeline or expiration date for the negotiations. Barry also declined to talk about 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 Universal, 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 Corp. and an interest in the Canadian weather company Pelmorex.

Blackstone Group is a part owner of the Nielsen Co., which also owns The Hollywood Reporter.
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