The bidding war for the iconic Weather Channel is heating up, as the auction's second round concludes today. This morning's Wall Street Journal handicaps the race, tapping the two leading contenders as Time Warner (NYSE: TWX ) and a group led by General Electric (NYSE: GE ) and Blackstone (NYSE: BX ) .
Big media. Big auction. Big mistake.
Am I the only one surprised to see Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) sit this one out?
Don't laugh. Google has done everything from bidding on wireless spectrum to investing in solar energy. And when you think about it, isn't Google the company best suited to monetize Landmark's Weather Channel?
We're not just talking about the flagship broadcasting network. Weather Channel also owns the popular Weather.com portal, serving up local forecasts for more than 77,000 worldwide locations. And no media company anywhere can match the contextual-marketing prowess of Google at the local level.
In its current state, Weather.com is populated by display ads, irrelevant local spots, and a search option from rival Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO ) . Google could do so much more.
Beyond the obvious cyberspace tie-in, Weather Channel hits 250 radio markets with The Weather Channel Radio Network and a localized newspaper service. Google acquired radio advertising specialist dMarc two years ago. The Weather Channel would put that purchase to great use, one would think.
With bids expected in the $3 billion to $4 billion range -- below the original $5 billion ransom that Landmark was expecting -- Google can easily afford this deal.
Television advertising is begging for improvement. Google would love to be the company to do it. You won't get a better easel for Google than this trusted brand and 24-hour cable fixture, serving up quick bursts of information on both the national and local level.
Google can feel the breath of antitrust regulators on the back of its neck. Before long, I suspect the company won't be allowed to make any material deals. Until then, it had better line up its provisions accordingly.
Big Goo will never control the weather, but it might just blow its chance to control the Weather Channel.