January 3, 2008 / 3:57 PM / 11 years ago

Landmark explores Weather Channel sale

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Media company Landmark Communications said on Thursday it was exploring the sale of its publishing and television businesses including cable network The Weather Channel.

An undated screengrab courtesy of The Weather Channel. The U.S. cable channel is to be put up for sale and could fetch more than $5 billion, The New York Times said in an online report on Thursday, quoting people briefed on the auction. REUTERS/Handout

Privately-held Landmark wants more than $5 billion for The Weather Channel and its Web site, according to a New York Times report, which named General Electric Co’s (GE.N) NBC Universal, News Corp NWSa.N and Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O) as possible bidders.

Landmark said it had not held talks with any potential buyers, but confirmed it had hired JPMorgan and Lehman Brothers to look at its alternatives.

“At this early stage, we cannot speculate on where this process will lead,” Landmark Chief Executive Frank Batten Jr. said in a statement.

Landmark’s 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 would be the most prized asset in a sale because cable networks are more valuable than newspapers, which have been losing advertisers and readers to the Internet and cable networks.

The Weather Channel has attracted viewers with its time-sensitive material as well as programming about hot-button issues on the environment and climate change.

The proposed price tag draws attention to the value of cable assets, which have managed to post stronger advertising growth than larger U.S. broadcast networks.

Another nonfiction cable broadcaster, Discovery Communications, is to become a publicly traded company and will include networks Discovery Channel, Science Channel and Animal Planet.

IAC/InterActiveCorp IACI.O is spinning off its HSN shopping network as part of a larger restructuring.

Comcast and News Corp declined to comment on the report of their possible interest in the Weather Channel, while NBC was not immediately available.

Additional reporting by Robert MacMillan and Ritsuko Ando; Editing by Steve Orlofsky, Toni Reinhold

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