NBC Universal and two private equity firms has emerged as the frontrunner on Friday when final bids for the Weather Channel were due, according to media reports.

NBC, the Blackstone Group and Bain Capital were offering about $3.5 billion including debt, the Financial Times reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.

Blackstone's GSO Capital, a hedge fund firm specializing in leveraged debt that Blackstone bought earlier this year would provide about $600 million in debt.

Other bidders for the channel include Time Warner. The Weather Channel is one of the last of the major cable channels with a relatively small, independent owner.

NBC Universal currently owns USA Network, SciFi, Oxygen and Bravo, along with its news franchises MSNBC and CNBC.