NEW YORK The Weather Channel is up for sale by its privately held parent, which is seeking more than $5 billion for the U.S. cable television channel and its Web site, The New York Times said on Thursday.
Media companies such as NBC, a unit of General Electric Co. (GE.N), News Corp NWSa.N, and Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O) are interested in The Weather Channel and its popular Web site, Weather.com, the report said, citing people briefed on the auction.
The report quoted sources as saying the sale was part of a break-up of parent Landmark Communications, a privately held media company based in Norfolk, Virginia. Landmark was not immediately available for comment.
Its newspapers include The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, The News & Record of Greensboro, North Carolina, The Roanoke (Virginia) Times and nearly 50 community newspapers.
"There's always somebody around who wants to own them for some reason. Media properties rarely don't get sold." said Benchmark Co analyst Ed Atorino.
The Weather Channel -- including its popular Web site -- would be the most prized asset in a sale. Viewers of its time-sensitive weather coverage are less likely to record the channel's shows and skip commercials when they replay them later, making it popular among advertisers.
The Weather Channel has also drawn viewers with programming about hot-button issues on the environment and climate change.
The proposed price tag draws new attention to the value of cable assets, which have managed to post stronger advertising growth than larger U.S. broadcast networks, as some media owners consider spinning off or selling cable holdings.
Another nonfiction cable broadcaster, Discovery Communications, is to become a publicly traded company and will include networks Discovery Channel, Science Channel and Animal Planet. Meanwhile, IAC/InterActiveCorp IACI.O is spinning off its HSN shopping network as part of a larger restructuring.
Comcast declined to comment on the report of its possible interest in the Weather Channel, while NBC and News Corp were not immediately available.
JPMorgan Chase is advising Landmark on the sale of The Weather Channel, while Lehman Brothers is adviser on the sale of its other media assets, The New York Times said in its report.
(Additional reporting by Robert MacMillan)
(Reporting by Paul Thomasch and Ritsuko Ando, editing by Steve Orlofsky)