Former Gray CEO Bob Prather’s new Heartland Media is adding Chambers Communications’ ABC affiliates in Eugene and Medford-Klamath Falls.
Heartland Media, the station group launched last year by former Gray Television president Bob Prather, is multiplying its holdings with the purchase of three stations in Oregon.
Heartland, back by MSouth Equity Partners, is paying $30 million for Chambers Communication Corp.’s stations KEZI in Eugene (DMA 121), KDRV and KDKF in Medford-Klamath Falls (DMA 140).
The three stations, all ABC affiliates, boost Heartland’s station count to four. It purchased WTVK, the NBC affiliate in Utica, N.Y. (DMA 171) in October 2013 for $16 million.
The Chambers acquisition follows the blueprint Prather used when he was at Gray, he says: Buy well-run stations in medium and smaller markets.
“Eugene is a college town, which I like,” Prather says. “Local television news is going to continue to be a valuable source of information in these size towns. Everybody in town wants to know what’s going on locally, and the only way to get that is through local television.”
Prather says he intends to put a strong focus on digital, including streaming. “We will be streaming all local news on mobile devices,” he says. “All the stations have good websites, but I’ll be working to improve them.”
Heartland is currently in talks to acquire two or three additional stations in similar size markets, according to Prather.
“I’m fired up,” he says. “It’s kind of like I’ve been reinvented. I’m an acquisitions guy at heart. I’m just kind of following my nose.”
For Chambers Communications, a family-owned business founded in 1959, the sale marks the end of an era.
“It’s been that way across the country,” says Scott Chambers, its CEO. “Consolidation left us at a disadvantage in some ways because of economies of scale. And we’re now seeing new terms of our relationship with the network.”
ABC, like other networks, is carving out a growing chunk of stations’ retransmission revenues in the form of reverse compensation or programming costs.
“We had multiple offers and we discussed the fact that we’re going to continue to live in this community and have lots of business interest in this community,” he says. “We wanted to see someone as committed to keeping news at the forefront as we were.”
Chambers, who has worked at the station for 32 years, notes that while the sale concludes his family’s investment in broadcasting, he will continue to serve on the board of the journalism school at the University of Oregon in Eugene.