Its pending acquisition of Tribune Media boosts Sinclair from fourth to No. 1 in TVNewsCheck‘s annual station group ranking by spot revenue. Other groups that advanced multiple slots from a year ago include Univision, Gray, Ion Media Networks, Berkshire Hathaway and News-Press & Gazette.
For the second year in a row, a big station group merger has helped reorder TVNewsCheck’s annual spot revenue ranking of the Top 30 TV Station Groups, altering the status of 22 groups and making room for two companies not on the list a year ago.
However, M&A wasn’t the whole story behind the shakeup. Another major factor was political advertising —good for some, not so much for others, depending on the confluence of a group’s stations with competitive races.
(To read capsules on stations groups with numbers of stations, household coverage and key executives and developments over the last 12 months, click on the group’s name in the chart below or see them all here.)
TVNewsCheck’s annual ranking of the Top 30 is based on advertising revenue estimates for 2016 provided through an exclusive arrangement with BIA/Kelsey. The rankings are based on advertising estimates alone, and do not include other revenue from retransmission consent, websites and other digital ventures.
Although the estimates are for 2016, the station groups are credited for revenue for all stations they own and operate as well as for any stations they announced they are acquiring between June 1, 2016, when the last Top 30 was posted, and today (Jun 5), even if the deals have not yet closed.
The groups’ coverage figures and numbers of stations/markets that appear in the individual listings were also provided by BIA/Kelsey. The station totals include full-power and low-power stations.
Top 30 Group Owners
|Rank||Group||2016 Spot Rev. (000)|
|25||News-Press & Gazette||$78,725|
The year’s big deal was Sinclair’s purchase of Tribune Media for $3.9 billion, plus the assumption of approximately $2.7 billion in debt. The resulting group will cover 72% of the U.S. with stations in 39 of the top 50 markets. Earlier, in April, Sinclair boosted its station portfolio when it paid Bonten Stations $240 million for its 14 stations in eight markets.
Those purchases helped pushed Sinclair up to No.1 from No. 4 last year, with reverberations down the list. “I think it is significant that this is the first time in a long time — maybe forever— that a non-O&O group is No. 1 in revenue,” said Mark Fratrik, BIA/Kelsey SVP and chief economist.
Of the 30, 19 moved up this year, three were down, six stayed put and two were new to the ranking. The biggest mover in terms of positions was Ion Media Networks, which climbed from 22 to 18, followed by News-Press & Gazette (3), three companies at 2 spots and 14 up 1. The biggest drop was 2 slots by both Fox Television Stations (No. 1 last year) and Nexstar Broadcast Group (from 3 to 5).
Morgan Murphy Media (No. 29) and Liberman Broadcasting (30) didn’t make the cut last year.
Reflecting on this year’ results, Fratrik emphasized the political factor. Those groups moving up likely had stations in markets with tight political races. “If you owned a station in Nevada, for instance, you made out like a bandit. 2016 was not as not as good a year as we had hoped, but it was still strong and in some markets very, very strong. There wasn’t as much spent by [Donald Trump] in various battleground states as had been expected,” he said.
“I think many stations are well-poised moving forward and I think the pending acquisitions by Sinclair of Bonten and Tribune really strengthens the company as it looks toward the future, and is really significant as it looks to ATSC 3.0, with the growth and plans Sinclair has for that.
“Gray has also made some acquisitions recently and I think that’s a stronger group. And Univision [which moved up two spots on the list, from 11 to 9], hasn’t bought anything, but [demonstrates how] Spanish-language television is becoming more prominent and more of a factor.”
As to what may be in store going forward, Fratrick is cautiously bullish. “I think that the market is fairly healthy but it’s not without its challenges. We have the movement of audiences to OTT services, so local broadcasters have a lot of competition [especially among younger viewers] both for viewers and advertisers, and I think the recent acquisitions over the last few years — back to 2013 —make local TV stations more formidable to compete in this new media marketplace.”
Fratrick is also enthusiastic about the possibilities of ATSC 3.0, the next-generation TV transmission standard that’s awaiting final FCC approval. “A lot of the different consortiums have different emphasis on what they want to do with 3.0, but the ability to increase the amount of programming, the ability to reach mobile devices and the ability to utilize the broadcast spectrum for non-broadcast, datacasting type of activities is a real possibility down the road. I’m very bullish on 3.0 opening up the possibilities for local broadcasting.”
BIA/Kelsey, an investment and research firm based in Chantilly, Va., tracks station group ownership and uses information from individual stations and markets, in addition to historical data, to generate its station and market ad revenue estimates. It checks its estimates against whatever public information is available.
BIA/Kelsey ranks Cunningham Broadcasting, Dreamcatcher and stations owned by Stephen Mumblow as distinct groups with distinct ownership. But because they function essentially as subsidiaries — duopoly partners — of Sinclair, TVNewsCheck lumps their revenues together with Sinclair’s.
The same holds true for Nexstar, which includes the revenue of Mission Broadcasting.
(To read capsules on stations groups with numbers of stations, household coverage and key executives and developments over the last 12 months, click on the group’s name in the chart or see them all here.)