Still in limbo as the government ponders approval of its pending combination with Tribune Media, Sinclair Broadcast Group remains No. 1 on TVNewsCheck‘s annual station group ranking by spot revenue. Owing in part to the acquisition of stations being spun off by the Sinclair-Tribune merger, Fox moves past CBS to become the new No. 2. A new member to the list is Soo Kim’s Standard Media, built on nine other stations Sinclair is spinning off.
Two factors combined to keep TVNewsCheck’s annual spot revenue ranking of the Top 30 TV Station Groups pretty much static — the government’s continued delay in approving the proposed Sinclair Broadcast Group acquisition of Tribune Media for $3.9 billion, and an advertising market depressed by paltry political ad dollars in an off year.
To help grease the wheels at the Justice Department and FCC, Sinclair agreed to sell off 16 stations. Nine went to a new entity, Standard Media, which immediately vaulted it onto the list at No. 24, while the other seven were snapped up by Fox. The seven don’t contribute enough revenue to unseat leader Sinclair, but they helped push Fox past CBS into the No. 2 slot.
(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 2017 provided through an exclusive arrangement with BIA Advisory Services. 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 2017, 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 5, 2017, when the last Top 30 was posted, and today (June 6), 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.
Of the 30 groups, 7 moved up this year, 8 were down, 14 didn’t move, one fell off the list and one came on. The biggest mover in terms of position was Weigel, which climbed from 23 to 19, followed by Capitol Broadcasting, which rose from 27 to 24. Six companies inched up 1 spot.
2017 Spot Rev. (000)
Four groups in the top 10 swapped slots, Fox and CBS, as mentioned above, and Univision (No. 10) and Raycom (No. 9), which traded places from the previous year.
The biggest drops were 4 slots by both Entravision, which fell from 17 to 21, and Berkshire Hathaway (from 24 to 28). Two companies dropped 2 slots, while 6 companies slipped 1 slot.
As mentioned above, the one newcomer to this year’s ranking is Standard Media, organized by Soo Kim, who got his former colleague Deborah McDermott to join him as CEO of the new group comprising nine stations in seven markets, placing it at No. 24. Falling off the list was Morgan Murphy, which was 29 a year ago.
Mark Fratrik, BIA SVP and chief economist, noted: “There wasn’t that much change from the previous years in terms of reach, in terms of revenues and so on. Obviously, 2017 was a down year for local television and all the groups felt that due to more competition as well as the lack of political advertising. And obviously the Sinclair-Tribune proposed acquisition and divestitures have possibly slowed up the rest of the market just because [everyone wants] to see what the fallout from that is in terms of what properties are available and the competition in the various markets.”
But once Sinclair-Tribune is sorted out, Fratrik sees a probable uptick in station M&A. “I think once that is resolved, there will be noticeably more acquisitions by these groups who are feeling a lot of competitive pressures both for advertisers and the audiences and thus they want to make strategic acquisitions to make them more financially sound.
“A lot of these groups that are on the top of the list are strong groups who know how to run good local television stations and they want to bring that expertise to other properties.”
Also boding well for next year’s revenue sheets, Fratrik says, is political. “There is obviously increased competition for political advertising from a host of other media, particularly local cable and digital properties online properties and I think that local television stations will garner the largest share.
“Obviously you have hundreds of cable networks, but they only have a limited amount of local inventory and they also don’t reach a lot of people. So, you have got to buy a lot of those spots to get the same number of impressions you would get on a week-long schedule on a local news in Chicago on over-the-air television.”
BIA Advisory Services, 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 lists Cunningham Broadcasting, Dreamcatcher and stations owned by Stephen Mumblow and others as distinct groups. 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.)