Weather.com 'Secret Weapon' In NBCU Deal

In acquiring The Weather Channel for $3.5 billion, NBC Universal may get even more than it paid for via weather.com, the cable network's Web site.

With 36.4 million unique visitors, weather.com ranked as the 15th most popular U.S. Web site in May, according to comScore Media Metrix. Besides the site's reach, however, Gartner media analyst Andrew Frank argued in a blog post Tuesday that weather.com also has a "secret weapon" in the zip codes it collects from users seeking local weather reports.

"That data is better than the ZIP code in your Facebook profile, because it's a good indicator of where you actually are or shortly plan to be, and is thus of significant value to marketers, which keeps weather.com's online ad rates high," Frank wrote on the research firm's media industry blog.

This gives weather.com the potential to increase the value of low-cost display ads on other social networks, blogs and news sites by helping to better target advertising, he adds.

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"So, combining NBC and Weather's sales capabilities with weather.com's targeting and NBC's online news and social properties (iVillage, NBC Primetime sites, cnbc.com, scifi.com, etc.) could be worth considerably more than the sum of the audiences," Frank wrote.

It's not all sunny skies, however. The Gartner analyst points out that the site's Web weather widgets, which should dominate the category, have drawn spotty reviews and slow adoption. "The next generation of weather watchers on Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter could still slip away," according to Frank.

Nevertheless, he maintains NBC can use weather.com to boost the value of affiliated properties to local advertisers.

Representatives of NBC and The Weather Channel declined to comment Tuesday on the transaction or the Gartner analysis. But NBC has said the acquisition would give the media company's sites a total unduplicated audience of 70 million, ranking it seventh among all U.S. Internet properties.

NBC Universal President and CEO Jeff Zucker also has said that cross-promotional opportunities across NBC and Weather properties would be a big part of that deal.

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