Two Fronts In Weather Forecast

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The auction for The Weather Channel is heating up again, with Time Warner and NBC Universal now emerging as the front runners for the cable network.

Bids for the network — expected to be between $3.5 billion and $4 billion — were due last Friday. Time Warner, which stands to reap $9.25 billion in cash from the spinoff of its Time Warner Cable unit later this year, has renewed its interest in the channel, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. NBC Universal, long thought to be in the running for the network, has paired up with private-equity giant The Blackstone Group in its bid, the Journal said.

The Weather Channel went on the block in January, with owner Landmark Communications reportedly asking for as much as $5 billion for the network and its Web site. Early front-runners in the bidding were CBS — which already has a relationship with the network to provide weather information to its broadcast stations — NBC and Liberty Media. CBS, according to some people familiar with the auction process, dropped out after it agreed to purchase online purveyor CNET for $1.8 billion.

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