Time Warner And NBCU Duel For Weather Channel; Final Bids Due Today

imageToday’s the deadline for contenders interested in acquiring cable network Weather Channel and its Weather.com to submit their final bids. As it gets down to the wire, Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) and a partnership between NBC Universal (NYSE: GE) and Blackstone Group have emerged as the lead rivals to buy the business, WSJ reports. CBS Corp (NYSE: CBS). appeared to stake out a position as a likely buyer, but perhaps after having spent $1.8 billion to buy CNET (NSDQ: CNET), the company is now expected to step away from the content for the Weather Channel. Other parties that initially expressed interest, including Liberty Media (NSDQ: LINTA) and Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA), are also said to be backing away as well.

Landmark Communications, the owner of the Weather Channel, had been hoping to sell the property for at least $5 billion. But it has been frustrated almost from the beginning of the process. The final offers are likely to range between $3 and $4 billion, WSJ says, citing unidentified sources. As for who will win, Time Warner has surprised observers with its aggressiveness. But given the $9.25 billion it will get for spinning off its Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) business, it could be feeling more acquisitive lately. But just as Time Warner would like to pair the Weather Channel with CNN, NBCU would like to add the network to its less-well-known NBC Weather Plus unit.

Staci adds: CBS is widely assumed to have taken a pass by making the CNET deal, a move that surprised cable execs I spoke with earlier this week. But others are a better fit: NBCU has invested considerably in Weather Plus as a local offering; TWC is a natural complement for CNN — and it’s headquartered in Atlanta; it fits Liberty’s profile; and Comcast could use a major national network for its cable network group although might not be interested in what’s likely to be a hefty price tag.