The Weather Channel, one of the last privately owned cable channels, is being put up for sale and could fetch more than $5 billion, according to people briefed on the auction. The channel and its rapidly growing Web site, weather.com, are already attracting interest from some of the biggest names in media, including NBC, a unit of General Electric; the News Corporation; and Comcast, these people said.
The sale of the Weather Channel, these people said, is part of a larger breakup of its parent, Landmark Communications, a privately held company controlled by the Batten family of Norfolk, Va., which also owns daily newspapers and other media properties. Landmark's newspaper holdings include The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, The News & Record of Greensboro, N.C., and The Roanoke Times in Virginia, as well as 50 other community newspapers. The company, which does not release its earnings, generated $1.75 billion in revenue in 2006 and has 12,000 employees, according to Hoover's.