Posted by: Jon Fine on January 3, 2008
Google buys it.
I speculated about this in a previous column. The thinking goes something like this: With the Weather Channel, Google would get a ton of traffic that they'd own outright. Google would be able to sell advertising around it without kicking a majority share of those revenues back to another company. It would get a form of media with low content-producing costs, that churns out data that everyone in the world wants, and that can be syndicated everywhere.
Also--duh!--Google is rich enough to pay the reported asking price with the change it scrapes out of a few couches in Mountain View.
Alternate buyers: Microsoft, Yahoo, or Time Warner's AOL, for the exact same ad-network reasons. If I have to pick one, I'd say Yahoo, because I'm betting new Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes believes he needs to make news with divestitures before he makes news with acquisitions. And I've already gone on a limb predicting Microsoft will wind down its media-owning and producing efforts.
But owning the Weather Channel makes sense for any of those guys--and makes much more sense than owning more traditional sources of "content," like a production company or a newspaper.