NBC Universal, in partnership with private equity firms Blackstone Group and Bain Capital, are the leading bidders to acquire The Weather Channel, one of the last of the last fully distributed,
independent cable networks, reports the New York Times
. The NBC U bid, about $3.5 billion, reportedly was made as final offers came in Friday night, including a bid from Time Warner. Weather
Channel owner Landmark Communications is expected to announce a winner as soon as next week.