NPG Looks To Beef Up Its TV Portfolio

John Keuneke, head of the St. Joseph, Mo.-based News-Press & Gazette's TV broadcasting unit, says over the next five years the company is looking to grow its cash flow through the acquistions of TV stations or possibly newpapers and data centers.

News-Press & Gazette’s purchase of the ABC and Fox affiliates in Columbia, Mo., did not sate its appetite for traditional media properties, says John Keuneke, head of the St. Joseph, Mo.-based company’s TV broadcasting unit.

NPG President Brian Bradley is interested in growing the company over the next five years through the acquisition of TV stations, newspapers or data centers. “We wants to replace the cash flow we used to get from the cable business.”

The cable cash flow disappeared a year and a half ago when Suddenlink purchased NPG Cable with some 90,000 subscribers for $350 million.

NPG will be looking to acquire TV stations similar to those it bought in Columbia from JW Broadcasting for $16 million. KMIZ, the ABC affiliate, airs MNT and Me-TV on subchannels. The Fox affiliate is low-power KQFX.

“We like the market,” he says, noting that it is not only the state capital, but also home of the University of Missouri. That means the local economy is “very consistent.” It is also close to company headquarters, he said.

KMIZ is on “an upward tick,” he said. In the May book, it was No. 1 in news at 10 and has been “strong in the morning.” Under JW’s ownership, it has been expanding news over the past year.

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Kueneke declined to discussed what multiple of cash flow NPG paid. “It was a fair deal for both sides.”

Kueneke said the he was unaware of any other bidders for the station. “They reached out to us. They just thought that it was a logical acquisition for us.”

The spin-off of the cable division has not made much difference for NPG’s ability to negotiate for retransmission consent fees. When cable was still in the fold, he said, a “Chinese wall” separated it from broadcasting. “They would work very hard to keep retrans payments low, and we would work hard to maximize them.”

As a small group, NGP still lacks the retrans leverage of big groups like Sinclair that is necessary to maximize fees, he said. “We do the best we can.”

Not counting Columbia, NPG now operates stations in eight Midwestern and Western markets. It also publishes 14 daily, weekly and monthly newspapers in Missouri and Kansas and operates two data storage facilities in Missouri.


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