The deal for the Weather Channel is NBC U’s to lose. Time Warner (TWX) pulled out of the bidding on Friday and Landmark Communications entered into exclusive talks with NBC U and its private equity partners. With private equity involved, it’s a complex deal. But let’s assume, for a moment, that NBC U (GE) can close. What do they get?
A fully-distributed cable channel, for one, but NBC U has plenty of those. Just as interesting: A Web property that will vault NBC U into the top echelon in terms of online audience. NBC Universal sites (including NBC.com, Universal Studios, CNBC.com, Bravo, Sci Fi, Access Hollywood and USA Network) had 13.2 million unique visitors in May, according to Nielsen Online’s survey of U.S. Web visitors; iVillage added another 13.5 million. Weather Channel had 38 million unique visitors in May. Total combined unduplicated uniques between NBC U, iVillage and Weather.com: 51.2 million.
Where does that leave NBC U? It takes it from the Web’s second tier — right now it draws about as many uniques as Craigslist — and vaults them into the Web’s top 10, behind Amazon (55 million), and a hair ahead of the New York Times Company (51.1 million). (All of this excludes MSNBC.com, a 50-50 joint venture with Microsoft (MSFT), which had 35 million unique visitors in May, according to Nielsen.)
The next challenge would figuring out how to turn all that inventory — especially the high volume, low traction visits to Weather.com — into meaningful revenue, a task that has baffled many of the Web’s giants. But it would be a nice problem to have.
Here’s what Nielsen’s list of top 10 parent companies (U.S. visitors) would look like NBC U had owned Weather.com in May:
1. Google / 128 million unique visitors
2. Microsoft / 123 million
3. Yahoo / 116 million
4. Time Warner / 108 million
5. News Corp. / 79 million
6. eBay / 66 million
7. InterActiveCorp. / 65 million
8. Wikimedia Foundation / 57 million
9. Amazon / 55 million
10. NBC Universal / 51.2 million (estimated unduplicated audience after Weather.com acquisition)
* New York Times Company, 51.1 million, falls to No. 11.
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