Multiple sources say Barrington Broadcasting’s 24 stations in 15 markets are for sale and that Sinclair and Nexstar are finalists among the bidders.
Bob Pittman’s Pilot Group has been shopping its TV station group, Barrington Broadcasting, and that the sale process is in the final stage, according to industry sources.
Barrington, headed by veteran broadcaster Jim Yager, owns or manages 24 stations in 15 markets, ranging from Flint-Saginaw, Mich. (DMA 67), to Ottumwa, Iowa-Kirksville, Mo. (DMA 200).
Yager did not return phone calls from TVNewsCheck. “We don’t comment on portfolio company activity,” said a spokesperson for Pilot Group.
Sources say several bidders made offers on Barrington. The finalists are said to be Sinclair Broadcast Group and Nexstar Broadcasting Group. Both public companies have been active station buyers this year – and because they are traded on Wall Street both are quiet about their M&A activities until deals are officially disclosed.
Nexstar and Sinclair apparently have an advantage over other bidders in many station sales because they have nationwide retransmission consent contracts in place with major cable and satellite operators. When either of them acquires a new station its retrans revenues immediately go to the new owner’s contract rates, which are generally higher than those of smaller station owners.
Until about a year ago, Barrington issued public financial reports each quarter because it used to have public bonds. However, it bought those bonds back in December 2011 as part of a band refinancing.
For the full year 2010, net revenues were $121.7 million and broadcast cash flow (BCF) was $50 million, according to the last publicly available reports.
Net revenues for the first three quarters of 2011 were $84.3 million and BCF was $29.8 million.
Yager and other executives from the former Benedek Broadcasting group launched Barrington in 2003 and closed on its first stations in 2004.
The company’s financial backer, Pilot Group, is the personal investment vehicle of Bob Pittman, current CEO of radio and billboard giant Clear Channel Communications.
Pittman was formerly COO of AOL Time Warner and president of predecessor AOL. Earlier in his career he was known as “The Father of MTV” – the radio programmer hired by Warner Satellite Entertainment Company for the 1981 launch of a TV music channel.
Barrington Stations by DMA
67. Flint-Saginaw, Mich.: WEYI (NBC), WBSF (CW)
76. Toledo, Ohio: WNWO (NBC)
77. Columbia, S.C.: WACH (Fox)
84. Syracuse, N.Y.: WSTM (NBC, D2, CW), JSA of WTVH (CBS), owned by Granite
86. Harlingen-Brownsville-McAllen, Texas: KGBT (CBS)
89. Colorado Springs-Pueblo, Colo.: KXRM, (Fox, D2, CW)
103. Myrtle Beach-Florence, S.C.: WPDE (ABC), LMA of WWMB (CW), owned by Sagamore Hill
116. Peoria-Bloomington, Ill: WHOI (ABC, D2, CW) in JSA to Granite’s WEEK (NBC)
119. Traverse City-Cadillac, Mich.: WBPN and satellite WTOM (NBC, D2, ABC), shared services agreement covering WGTU and satellite WGTQ (ABC, D2, NBC), which are owned by Tucker Broadcasting
130. Amarillo, Texas: KVII and satellite KVIH (ABC, D2, CW)
138. Columbia-Jefferson City, Mo.: KRCG (CBS)
150. Albany, Ga.: – KFXL (Fox)
171. Quincy, Ill.-Hannibal, Mo.-Keokuk, Iowa: KHQA (CBS, D2, ABC)
180. Marquette, Mich.: WLUC (NBC, D2, Fox)
200. Ottumwa, Iowa-Kirksville, Mo.: KTVO (ABC, D2, CBS)