NEW YORK: Entertainment conglomerate Time Warner has entered into limited bidding for the US-headquartered Weather Channel and associated businesses, owned by privately-held Landmark Communications.

In the auction's final stage, TW is up against media giant NBC Universal, backed by private equity firms Blackstone Group and Bain Capital.

The two rivals are in direct talks with Landmark, which hopes to raise around $5 billion (€3.16bn; £2.52bn) through the sale, announced at the start of this year. Sources say, however, that bids of around $3.5bn are currently on the table.

TW cfo John Martin has assured his investors the company will be "extremely price disciplined and price sensitive" in negotiations for the Weather Channel - which it considers a good fit with its CNN news service.

Declares Martin: "A combined CNN-Weather would give us a very, very interesting cross-platform play in an online play."

Weather Channel's programming on environmental issues has proved very popular both among viewers and advertisers.

It has more than 96 million US subscribers, and can be seen in more than 97% of all cable TV homes across the country.

Its website attracts around 35 million unique visitors, according to Landmark, putting it among the web's twenty most popular sites.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff