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Landmark Confirms May Sell Weather Channel

Landmark Communications, which owns The Weather Channel, said Thursday it hired two investment banks and would explore strategic options, including a possible sale.

The privately held company said in a statement that it had retained J.P. Morgan and Lehman Brothers to assist in the process.

"At this early stage, we cannot speculate on where this process will lead," Landmark Chief Executive Frank Batten Jr. said in a statement, confirming earlier media reports of a possible sale.

In addition to The Weather Channel, Landmark's holdings include newspapers The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, The News & Record of Greensboro, N.C., and The Roanoke Times in Virginia.

Earlier, the New York Times reported the planned sale and said it is seeking more than $5 billion for the U.S. cable television channel and its Web site.

Media companies such as NBC, a unit of General Electric, News Corp. and Comcast are interested in The Weather Channel and its popular Web site, weather.com, the report said.

The report quoted sources as saying the sale was part of a break-up of parent Landmark Communications, a privately held media company based in Norfolk, Virginia.

The Weather Channel -- including its popular Web site -- would be the most prized asset in a sale. Viewers of its time-sensitive weather coverage are less likely to record the channel's shows and skip commercials when they replay them later, making it popular among advertisers.

The Weather Channel has also drawn viewers with programming about hot-button issues on the environment and climate change.

The proposed price tag draws new attention to the value of cable assets, which have managed to post stronger advertising growth than larger U.S. broadcast networks, as some media owners consider spinning off or selling cable holdings.

Another nonfiction cable broadcaster, Discovery Communications, is to become a publicly traded company and will include networks Discovery Channel, Science Channel and Animal Planet. Meanwhile, IAC/InterActiveCorp is spinning off its HSN shopping network as part of a larger restructuring.

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

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