By Michele Gershberg and Kenneth Li
NEW YORK, March 4 (Reuters) - Landmark Communications is seeking up to $5 billion for the Weather Channel cable television network, with preliminary bids due next week, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter.
Privately held Landmark announced in January that it was exploring strategic options for its publishing and television businesses, hiring JPMorgan and Lehman Brothers to look at its alternatives.
Analysts have said 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 TV networks.
A source said some 20 parties have looked at sale materials for the Weather Channel. The network’s time-sensitive material as well as programming about hot-button issues on the environment and climate change has proven to be attractive to advertisers and audiences.
Landmark Communications, based in Norfolk, Virginia, declined to comment, as did Time Warner, Comcast and CBS. NBC was not immediately available to comment.
Interest in the Weather Channel comes amid broader shifts in the cable TV landscape. Discovery Communications, for instance, is to become a publicly traded company in the second quarter, including networks Discovery Channel, Science Channel and Animal Planet.
In addition, IAC/InterActiveCorp IACI.O is spinning off its HSN shopping network as part of a larger restructuring, and E.W. Scripps Co SSP.N plans to split itself into two publicly traded companies, one that will center on its cable channels and the other that will include its newspapers and broadcast TV stations. (Additional reporting and writing by Paul Thomasch; Editing by Tiffany Wu and Gerald E. McCormick)