Friday, January 11, 2008

Mediarology: Got $5 Billion?

Apply directly to the forehead!

Raid the piggy bank, weather fans. Today's WaPo has a front-page business section article discussing the previously-announced potential sale of The Weather Channel. Landmark Communications, current owner of TWC, was founded as a newspaper company over 100 years ago in the Norfolk area, so the potential restructuring is viewed in terms of the decline of the printed word as a vehicle for news distribution. Landmark still owns the Annapolis Capital among its newspaper holdings.

TWC, one of the last privately held cable channels, is based in Atlanta and reaches about 97% of cable and satellite households in the U.S. The web site,, is in the top 20 sites by traffic, with 30 million unique visitors and $130 million in annual revenue. That's a lot of Head-On ads!

Potential buyers include Time Warner, Silver Spring-based Discovery Communications, News Corp., and NBC Universal. Industry estimates for the value of the cable and web properties are as high as $5 billion.

In hindsight, TWC's success appears forehead-slappingly obvious, but the early history of the channel was marked by a series of financial crises as the fledgling operation tried to find a market. The meteorologist with the original idea, John Coleman, walked away with $20 for his original 20 shares of Class A stock and turned over control to Landmark after being unable to raise $1 million to exercise an option and save the company from bankruptcy.

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