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Report: Weather Channel Owners Exploring Options

Private equity firms Bain Capital and The Blackstone Group have held early discussions with two top investment bankers concerning their stakes in The Weather Channel, including a possible sale of their interests, according to reports.

According to a report in Bloomberg News, the buyout firms have approached investment bankers J.P. Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs concerning their possible options, including an outright sale of all or part of the company. Bloomberg said that The Weather Channel has not begun a process or hired bankers yet. The channel, which is fully distributed in more than 100 million homes, was purchased in 2008 for $3.5 billion by Blackstone, Bain and Comcast’s NBC Universal.

While fully distributed channels have attracted high prices in the past, The Weather Channel has come under fire recently for its programming. In January DirecTV dropped the channel for three months – it later signed up with weather service Weather Nation instead – complaining that the network filled its prime time slots with reality programming instead of focusing on weather forecasts. The Weather Channel returned to DirecTV in April, after it agreed to pull back on reality programming and focus more on local weather updates.

Officials at The Weather Channel, Blackstone, NBC Universal and Bain all declined comment.

Sources familiar with the matter said that while “very preliminary” discussions have occurred between the buyout firms and bankers, nothing is imminent.

“I wouldn’t attach a lot of significance to it,” said one person familiar with the companies.

Investors also seemed unfazed by a potential Weather Channel deal. Comcast stock was down about 15 cents each (0.3%) to $56.83 per share in Friday afternon trading.