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Weather May Fit With CBS

3/14/2008 8:00 PM Eastern

CBS Corp. CEO Les Moonves threw his hat into the ring in the bidding for The Weather Channel, telling an audience at an investor conference here that the meteorological network could be a good fit with his company’s media properties.

Speaking at the 2008 Media Summit, Moonves didn’t want to commit himself as a bona fide bidder for the network — he said CBS looks at everything — but showed interest in pursuing the network, if the price is right.

“The Weather Channel is showing to everybody in town; we’re one of the people that they’re showing it to,” Moonves said, adding that the media giant’s interest will depend on the price of the assets. “We don’t know enough about it quite yet, what their subsidiaries are, et cetera. That’s something that could fit. It’s a content company; it’s involved with some of the things we do. It would fit, just like College Sports Television fit with our sports portfolio.”

CBS purchased College Sports Television — renamed CBS College Sports Network — in November 2005, for $325 million.

CBS already has a relationship with Weather — it uses the network’s data for weather forecasts at its owned-and-operated TV stations across the country, including WCBS-TV in New York.

The channel is fully distributed — it is available in about 96 million homes — and generates about $300 million in annual revenue, according to SNL Kagan. The weather.com site is expected to generate about $130 million in revenue this year.

Weather Channel parent Landmark Communications put the network on the block in January — along with its more than 100 community weekly and daily newspapers and two CBS-affiliated television stations — and has hired New York investment bankers JP Morgan Chase and Lehman Bros. as advisers. Preliminary bids for the network and its related Web site weather.com were due on March 10.

One of the obstacles for the sale of the 25-year-old network could be what some perceive as a high price. Landmark CEO Decker Anstrom, has said in the past that the reported $5 billion price tag for the Weather Channel is “fair.”

Anstrom did not return calls for comment last week.

The high price may not sit well with some potential bidders, which include General Electric Co.’s NBC Universal, Comcast, Time Warner Inc. and Liberty Media, according to some reports.

Market conditions and the general malaise in the economy could prevent some players, especially Comcast and Time Warner Inc., from bidding high. Most analysts believe that initial bids will come in far below $5 billion.

The network would also fit well with NBC Universal — its own digital broadcast and cable network, NBC Weather Plus could benefit from a union with TWC — but NBCU chief Jeff Zucker has said publicly he is uncomfortable with the $5 billion price tag.

 

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