Big Deals = Big Changes In Station Groups

A plethora of mega-deals over the last 12 months has reordered TVNewsCheck's annual ranking. While the top three spots remained the same as last year — occupied by Fox, CBS and Sinclair — the rest of the top 10 is much changed with five companies gone through M&A activity.

The past 12 months have seen a frenzy of station acquisitions among the biggest television station group owners that resulted in five of last year’s top 25 companies leaving the list through mergers. They are Allbritton, Belo, LIN, Local TV and Young.

TVNewsCheck’s annual ranking of the Top 30 is based on advertising revenue estimates for 2013 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 fees and websites and other digital ventures.

Also, although the estimates are for 2013, 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 May 23, 2013, when the last Top 30 was posted, and April 30, even if the deals have not closed.

Despite all the changes, the top three spots remained the same with Fox first, CBS second and Sinclair third.

After that, however, there was plenty of movement among the top 10. Last year’s No. 4, ABC/Disney dropped to No. 7; Gannett climbed from No. 6 to No. 4 this year; Hearst dropped from No. 7 to No. 9; Tribune climbed from No. 8 to No. 6; Univision slipped from No. 9 to No. 10.


Media General recorded the biggest rise on the list, jumping from No. 17 last year to No. 8, largely because of its announced $1.6 billion merger with LIN. While that deal is awaiting FCC approval, the resulting Media General would have 74 stations in 46 markets and coverage of 23% of all TV homes.

TV’s Top 30 Group Owners

Rank Group 2013 Rev
1. Fox $1,671,250
2. CBS $1,502,125
3. Sinclair $1,344,700
4. Gannett $1,303,900
5. Comcast/NBCU $1,294,125
6. Tribune $1,228,850
7. ABC/Disney $1,020,250
8. Media General $972,100
9. Hearst $726,000
10. Univision $697,000
11. Raycom $614,325
12. Cox Media $522,650
13. Nexstar $502,075
14. Scripps $457,775
15. Meredith $387,275
16. Gray $344,450
17. Post-Newsweek $261,200
18. Sunbeam $206,600
19. Journal $163,325
20. Entravision $125,650
21. Hubbard $117,350
22. Quincy $108,675
23. Cordillera $99,425
24. Schurz $90,450
25. Ion Media $90,075
26. Weigel $82,325
27. Dispatch $82,025
28. Berkshire Hathaway $71,100
29. Griffin $69,075
30. Capitol $66,500

At the end of March, the FCC threw a monkey wrench into the station sale process when Chairman Tom Wheeler won a 3-2 vote that changed the commission’s rules so that TV broadcasters generally may not form new joint sales agreements in which one station sells 15% or more of the advertising time of another separately owned station in the same market. Many broadcasters have been using JSAs exceeding 15%, usually in concert with shared services agreements, to operate second TV stations in markets where outright ownership is prohibited by agency rules.

By TVNewsCheck’s count, deals valued at more than $3 billion are lodged in the FCC bureaucracy because of JSA and SSA issues. The biggest part of that total is the $1.6 billion attached to the merger of Media General and LIN. The parties tried to engineer that deal around the new thinking at the FCC. But who can say exactly what the thinking is? Both companies have pre-existing sidecar deals built on JSAs and SSAs that could gum up the works.

Deals in limbo include Sinclair Broadcast Group’s $985-million purchase of Allbritton Communications announced last July. In the face of Wheeler’s zero-tolerance policy regarding sidecars, Sinclair vowed in March to spin off the Allbritton stations in Harrisburg, Pa., Charleston, S.C., and Birmingham, Ala., to a buyer who is really, truly and absolutely not related to it and it has hired an investment banker, Moelis, to find one.

Another is Nexstar’s buy of Communications Corp. of America. That $270 million deal has been pending for a year with no sign of resolution at the FCC.

“Last year was remarkable in terms of the dynamics of TV groups getting bigger,” says Mark Fratrik, BIA/Kelsey SVP and chief economist. “2012 was a good year for political advertising on TV. While interest rates were higher than they were in the downturn, they still are at what I’ll call historical lows.

“And the whole retransmission consent dynamic” has been very important too, he adds. “When a larger group acquires a station, the arrangements they have with the MSOs and the satellite companies automatically kick in the newly acquired stations at a noticeably higher retransmission consent rate. So as soon large company A buys smaller company B there’s a big increase in retransmission consent, which goes right to the bottom line.”

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, Fratrik says.

BIA/Kelsey ranks Mission Broadcasting and stations owned by Stephen Mumblow as distinct groups with distinct ownership. But because they function essentially as subsidiaries of Sinclair, TVNewsCheck lumps their revenues together.

The group station coverage figures and numbers of stations were also provided by BIA/Kelsey. The number of stations includes full-power and low-power stations as well as repeater stations.

New York
2013 Revenue: $1.7 billion
Stations: 29 in 18 markets
Coverage: 37.3%
Ownership: 21st Century Fox (NASDAQ: FOXA)
Key executives: Rupert Murdoch, chairman-CEO, 21st Century Fox; Chase Carey, president-COO, 21st Century Fox; Roger Ailes, chairman-CEO, Fox News/chairman, Fox Television Stations; Jack Abernethy, CEO, Fox Television Stations; and Dennis Swanson, president, station operations, Fox Television Stations.

What’s up: As part of News Corp. spinoff last year that created 21st Century Fox, the new company’s syndication arm, Twentieth Television, was moved out of the TV station group and became a division of the television production studio, Twentieth Century Fox Television. “This reorganization underscores the changing landscape of the syndication TV business, more closely aligning the distribution of our shows with our content creators,” said Chase Carey, COO of 21st Century Fox.

Fox-owned WWOR New York wanted to replace its traditional 10 p.m. news with something different. Chasing New Jersey, which debuted last July, certainly fits the bill. The show starts with the “Wrap,” a roundup of everything from what the New York Post and NBC Nightly News are reporting to what’s “On the Blogs” and “Geek Stuff.” If you’re looking for pop culture, with tomorrow’s weather thrown in, it’s there. The guts of the show are the enterprise stories from reporters (called “chasers”) “focusing on all things New Jersey.” They have all the makings of viable, albeit atypical, news stories.

In the spirit of Chasing New Jersey — although in a decidedly slower Southern style — Fox launched a second unconventional, young-skewing newscast in January, this time on its WJZY Charlotte, N.C. Airing at 10 p.m., My Fox Carolinas News @10 is informal with no highly stylized set or anchor desk. Instead, the “senior digital journalist” — elsewhere known as an anchor — orchestrates the newscast by walking around the newsroom, stopping by reporters who tell their stories or tease upcoming ones. Sometimes they stand together; sometimes, the reporter sits at his or her desk.

2013 Revenue: $1.5 billion
Stations: 30 in 18 markets
Coverage: 37.9%
Ownership: CBS Corp. (NYSE:CBS)
Key executives: Sumner Redstone, executive chairman, CBS Corp.; Leslie Moonves, president-CEO, CBS Corp.; Peter Dunn, president, CBS Television Stations; Anton Guitano, COO, CBS Local Media; Ezra Kucharz, president, CBS Local Digital Media.

What’s up: In March, Ed Ziskind was named VP of business development and strategic partnerships at the station group. He reports to Amy Scanlan, the station group’s SVP, business development and strategic partnerships, and is responsible for working with the sales teams at the group’s local stations and national sales offices in New York, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Detroit, Minneapolis and Pittsburgh.

2013 Revenue: $1.34 billion
Stations: 162 in 78
Coverage: 37.8%
Ownership: Sinclair Broadcasting Group Inc. (Nasdaq: SBGI)
Key executives: David Smith, president-CEO, Sinclair Broadcast Group; Steven M. Marks, VP-COO, television division; David Amy, EVP-COO; Christopher Ripley, CFO; Barry Faber, EVP-general counsel.

What’s up: Since last year’s top 30 ranking, Sinclair has continued its acquisition focus, but has found itself stymied by the FCC’s reluctance to OK some purchases and its adoption of strict new criteria for evaluating shared services agreements (SSAs) in its review of TV station deals.

Last July, Sinclair agreed to buy Allbritton Communications’ seven ABC affiliates for $985 million. The deal also includes NewsChannel 8, a 24-hour cable-satellite news network covering the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

While the addition of ABC affiliate WJLA Washington to Sinclair’s portfolio was the highest-profile part of its purchase of Allbritton Communications’ TV group, Sinclair CEO David Smith says what he was really after was the local Washington cable channel NewsChannel 8. He plans to combine it with the news resources of Sinclair’s 101 news-producing stations to create a national cable news network with “a unique, customized local presence in our markets and the markets of other broadcasters with which we may partner in the future.”

At the time of the deal, Sinclair said it expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2013. But with the FCC not agreeing to approve the transaction because of various sharing agreements involved, in March of this year, Sinclair proposed dropping the use of sidecars as part of its effort to push its acquisition of Allbritton through the FCC.

Sinclair says it will sell three stations that it now owns — WHP Harrisburg-Lancaster, Pa.; WMMP Charleston, S.C.; and WABM Birmingham, Ala. — to independent third parties. The company assured the FCC it would not enter any operational or financial agreements with any of the buyers.

To facilitate those three station sales since it hopes to close the Allbritton deal by July 27,  Sinclair in April engaged Moelis & Co. as its financial adviser.

Last September, Sinclair also agreed to purchase eight TV stations — one low power and seven full power — owned by New Age Media for $90 million. The stations are located in three markets — Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pa.; Tallahassee, Fla.; and Gainesville, Fla. To comply with FCC ownership rules, Sinclair will sell the license and related assets of three stations to Cunningham Broadcasting Corp. and of one to Deerfield Media. Sinclair would continue to provide sales and other non-programming support services to each of these stations. This sale is also pending at the FCC

There was movement on some of its other station purchases over the past year. In August, it closed on its acquisition of Fisher Communications Inc. valued at approximately $373.3 million. The deal included 13 full-power and seven low-power TV stations and four radio stations.

In October, it closed its purchase of four stations owned by Titan Television Broadcast Group for $115.35 million.

And in November, it closed on the purchase of 18 TV stations owned by Barrington Broadcasting Group for $370 million.

It seems like the company’s increasing interaction with the government led it to a couple of actions. First, in November, it named Rebecca Hanson SVP, strategy and policy, with responsibility for the development and oversight of a new Washington office “dedicated to a broad range of policy and business matters.”

Then, earlier this month, it announced the formation of a political action committee. Hanson said the company will use the PAC as it works on issues in front of Congress and the FCC. “There are a lot of challenges facing our industry, and we believe that engaging in the process through the PAC is one of a variety of ways to further our goals,” she said.

Earlier this month, it announced the formation of a new joint venture with Coherent Logix to develop what it’s calling the Next Generation Broadcast Platform that it feels is needed to address issues that ATSC is not. Said Sinclair’s Mark Aitken: “ATSC does not offer a place for how we, as an industry, can work to shape regulation and work with all of the government bodies to make a next-generation system happen.”

Its other big tech move was the surprising announcement in June 2013 that it was buying the assets of longtime antenna manufacturer Dielectric that was going out of business. Sinclair CEO David Smith said that he felt he had to rescue Dielectric from going out of business to guarantee support and parts for all the Dielectric transmission gear he has in the field. “This was an insurance policy for us. I now know if I get hit under any circumstance, I own all the intellectual property involved in creating any replacement parts for anything I need.”

In February, Sinclair promoted David Amy from EVP-CFO to chief operating officer and named Christopher Ripley chief financial officer. Last November, it named former Acme Communications exec Doug Gealy group manager overseeing Sinclair’s stations in Washington, Raleigh, N.C., and Richmond, Va.

McLean, VA
2013 revenue: $1.3 billion
Stations: 38 in 30 markets
Coverage: 28%
Ownership: Gannett Co. (NYSE:GCI)
Key executives: Majorie Magner, chairman, Gannett Co.; Gracia Martore, president-CEO, Gannett Co.; and David Lougee, president, Gannett Broadcasting.

What’s up: A year ago, Gannett announced a deal that would propel it from the No. 6 spot on 2013’s top 30 list to No. 4 this year. That was the purchase of Belo Corp.’s 43 television stations for $2.2 billion — $1.5 billion in cash and $715 million in assumption of debt.

According to Gannett, the deal also accelerated the transformation of the company from print to electronic media. Following the transaction, broadcasting will contribute more than half of its EBITDA, and broadcasting and digital combined will account for nearly two-thirds.

The deal closed last December and as part of a deal with the Department of Justice to obtain approval, Gannett sold three stations — KMOV St. Louis and KTVK-KSAW Phoenix — to Meredith Corp. for $407.5 million.

Just last week, Gannett made another acquisition. It’s purchasing six of London Broadcasting Co.’s television stations in Texas for $215 million in an all-cash transaction. The stations: KCEN (NBC) Waco-Temple-Bryan; KYTX (CBS) Tyler-Longview; KIII (ABC) Corpus Christi, KBMT (ABC) and its digital subchannel KJAC (NBC) Beaumont-Port Arthur; KXVA (Fox) Abilene-Sweetwater; and KIDY (Fox) San Angelo. Gannett said after the deal closes, which it expects to happen this summer, Phil Hurley, London Broadcasting COO, will continue to lead the six stations. Hurley will report to Dave Lougee, president of Gannett Broadcasting. (Note that the London stations do not figure into the Gannett revenue, station and coverage totals here because the announcement came after our April 30 cut-off.)

In January, David Lougee, president of Gannett Broadcasting, announced a new executive team that included former Belo execs including EVP Lynn Beall who continued as GM of KSDK St. Louis; EVP Peter Diaz; Sales VP Angela Betasso; Sales Strategy VP Dan Lyons; News and Content SVP Rob Mennie; and News VP Michael Valentine.

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Last November, a number of Gannett stations debuted new websites that use the same look and feel as its parent company’s flagship newspaper USA Today, including the animations, left and right browsing arrows and fixed, color coded header and navigation bar.

New York
2013 Revenue: $1.3 billion
strong>Stations: 27 in 20 markets
Coverage: 36.4%
Ownership: Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA)
Key executives: Brian Roberts, chairman-CEO, Comcast Corp.; Steve Burke, CEO, NBCUniversal, and EVP, Comcast Corp.; Ted Harbert, chairman, NBC Broadcasting; Valari Staab, president, NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations.

What’s up: Since last July, NBCUniversal reorganized, folding the 17 stations of its Spanish-language Telemundo group in with its 10 NBC O&Os under the banner of the NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations and the leadership of the Valari Staab. Combined, the group now comprises 27 stations in 18 markets.

Last year, NBC moved its mobile website and app development for its stations in house, building the sites off its content management system and aiming for four to six niche apps for each of its 10 stations. “Strategically, the overall goal for us is to find one or two things that we can do really well in each of our markets,” says Lora LeSage, SVP of digital media at the group.

2013 Revenue: $1.2 billion
Stations: 51 stations in 32 markets
Coverage: 42.8%
Ownership: Control of the company has been transferred under a bankruptcy reorganization plan to the company’s largest lenders, which include JPMorgan Chase and hedge funds Oaktree Capital Management and Angelo, Gordon & Co.
Key executives: Bruce Karsh, chairman, Tribune Co., and president-co-founder of Oaktree Capital Management LLP; Peter Liguori, CEO, Tribune Co.; and Larry Wert, president, broadcast media; Lynda King, COO, broadcast media.

What’s up: At the end of 2013, a year filled by big-ticket TV station mergers and acquisitions, the FCC cleared the way for one of the year’s bigger deals — Tribune Co.’s purchase of 16 stations in 14 markets from Local TV LLC for $2.7 billion. That deal had been announced in July.

Peter Liguori, Tribune’s president-CEO, said: “The logic and investment thesis underlining our acquisition of Local TV is as powerful as it is simple—in a fragmenting media landscape, there is value in scale, for our viewers, advertisers, networks, cable and satellite partners and, most important, the communities we serve.”

Shortly after closing, in January, Tribune named Lynda King COO of its broadcasting division. King was formerly headed up operations for Local TV. In March, Devin Johnson was tapped to be head of digital media, responsible for the broadcast group’s product development, social media, content, technology and digital sales strategy. And in April, former CNN executive Katherine Green was hired as SVP of news to oversee news operations at the group’s 42 stations.

Tribune Broadcasting and MGM Television in May formed a new programming operations relationship for This TV, the 24/7 free digital network that features movies from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s 4,000-plus library. Effective this fall, Tribune Broadcasting will oversee all programming operations for the digital network.

Last August, Tribune spun off three of the 19 stations it acquired from Oak Hill Partners earlier that year — ABC affiliate WNEP Wilkes-Barre/ Scranton, Pa. (DMA 54), and WTKR-WGNT Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News, Va. (DMA 44), a CBS-CW combo — but Tribune will continue to operate them under a shared services agreement. The buyer of the stations is Dreamcatcher Broadcasting, owned by Ed Wilson, a former president of Tribune Broadcasting and former chief revenue officer of Tribune Co.

Los Angeles
2013 Revenue: $1.0 billion
Stations: 8 stations in 8 markets
Coverage: 22.8.0%
Ownership: The Walt Disney Co. (Public: NYSE:DIS)
Key executives: Robert Iger, chairman-CEO, Disney; Anne Sweeney, co-chair, Disney Media Networks and president of Disney/ABC Television Group; Rebecca Campbell, president, ABC Owned Television Stations Group.
What’s up: After 18 years at the Walt Disney Co., Anne Sweeney, co-chair, Disney Media Networks and president, Disney/ABC Television Group, said in March that she will be stepping down at the end of her current contract in January 2015 to pursue a career as a TV director.

Sweeney will be succeeded by ABC News President Ben Sherwood on Feb. 1, 2015. Sherwood has begun the transition as co-president, Disney/ABC Television Group. He will also continue to oversee ABC News until a successor is named.

In January, ABC executive Debra O’Connell was promoted to president of ABC National Television Sales. She succeeded John Watkins, who retired at the end of January.

2013 Revenue: $972 million
Stations: 100 in 46 markets
Coverage: 14.2%
Ownership: Media General (NYSE: MEG)
Key executives: George L. Mahoney, president-CEO; James R. Conschafter, VP-broadcast markets; John R. Cottingham, VP-broadcast markets; Deborah McDermott, SVP-broadcast markets.

What’s up: Media General has been busy over the past 12 months, doing deals that have moved it from No. 17 on last year’s Top 30 to No. 8 this year.

It started last June when Media General and privately held New Young Broadcasting Holding Co. combined the two companies in an all-stock merger transaction. The combined company owned or operated 31 network-affiliated stations in 28 markets reaching 14% of U.S. TV households. The deal closed in November.

Then in March, Media General and LIN Media announced a $1.6 billion merger. The resulting company will have 74 stations in 46 markets and coverage of 23% of all TV homes. Media General shareholders would end up with 64% of the new merged company that will be called Media General and remain based in Media General’s Richmond, Va., offices, but LIN President-CEO Vincent Sadusky will retain those titles and will run it. Pre-merger Media General CEO George Mahoney will leave once the merger closes.

The Media General-LIN deal is still awaiting FCC approval; Media General says it hopes to close by early next year.

New York
2013 Revenue: $726 million
Stations: 36 is 26 markets
Coverage: 12.5%
Ownership: Hearst Corp. (private)
Key executives: Frank A. Bennack Jr., executive vice chairman, Hearst Corp.; Steven Swartz, president-CEO, Hearst Corp.; Jordan Wertlieb, president, Hearst Television Inc.

What’s up: It had been rumored for several months toward the end of last year that Hearst Television CEO David Barrett would step down and turn over day-to-day operation of Hearst Corp.’s station group to President-COO Jordan Wertlieb. In a state-of-the-corporation memo to employees on Jan. 2, Hearst Corp. Swartz unceremoniously announced that the transition had already taken place.

“David Barrett completed at year-end an outstanding 15-year run as CEO of Hearst Television and handed over leadership to his deputy, Jordan Wertlieb, president, and himself a 20-year veteran of the group,” the memo said. “David will remain very active as a Hearst trustee and board member.”

The following month, Hearst chose WPIX New York GM Eric Meyrowitz to oversee sales activities at Hearst’s 29 stations along with Kathleen Keefe with both holding VP of sales titles. Then in April, Keefe announced that she would retire at the end of 2014. Keefe joined Hearst Television in 2001, leading the sales efforts of the publicly traded Hearst-Argyle Television where she helped the company achieve record advertising revenues during her tenure.

New York
2013 Revenue: $697 million
Stations: 61 in 25 markets
Coverage: 44.2%
Ownership: Broadcasting Media Partners Inc., an investor group including Madison Dearborn Partners, Providence Equity Partners, TPG Capital, Thomas H. Lee Partners and Saban Capital Group.
Key executives: Randy Falco, president-CEO, Univision Communications; Kevin Cuddihy, president, Univision Television Group; Alberto Mier y Terán, EVP, Univision Television Group; Isaac Lee, president, news; Beau Ferrari, EVP of operations, Univision Networks

What’s up: In March Univision Communications asked the FCC to allow it to continue negotiating retransmission consent deals for all Entravision Communications TV stations, even though most broadcasters are barred from negotiating retrans agreements for multiple stations in the same market. Univision was seeking special relief from the FCC because the agency adopted a new regulation on March 31 that would generally bar broadcasters from joint TV station retransmission consent negotiations.

The company promoted the GM of its flagship KMEX Los Angeles, Alberto Mier y Terán, to executive vice president of its Univision Television Group. Mier y Terán continues as GM of its Los Angeles stations KMEX and KFTR (UniMás), and now joined the executive team of UTG. He is now involved in the strategic direction of the group, including personnel, revenue, expense and station management. He reports to Kevin Cuddihy, president of UTG.

Univision promoted Patsy Loris from senior news director to VP of news last May as the Hispanic network prepared to launch its Fusion joint venture with ABC.

In September, Cesar Conde resigned as president of Univision Networks to become an executive vice president at NBCUniversal. In this newly created role, he will focus on business development, strategic priorities and special business projects across the NBCUniversal portfolio. He also will oversee the International Group.

Lourdes Torres was named vice president of regional news for Univision News last November. In her new role, she continues as director of special projects and added oversight for all programming on Univision O&Os.

This April, Univision News President Isaac Lee was named to the board of directors of the Associated Press.

Montgomery, Ala.
2013 Revenue: $614 million
Stations: 43 in 35 markets
Coverage: 12.4%
Ownership: Employee owned
Key executives: Paul McTear, president-CEO; Leon Long, VP-television; Don Richards; VP-television; Jeff Rosser, VP-television; Brad Streit, VP-television

What’s up: Longtime Raycom executive Wayne Daugherty retired as the company’s executive vice president and chief operating officer at the end of 2013. Daugherty had held that post since 2006; he began his career in TV sales almost 45 years ago.

Raycom announced in February that its syndicated newsmagazine America Now with co-hosts Leeza Gibbons and Bill Rancic would not return for a fifth season this fall. America Now is produced by ITV Studios America for Raycom. Trifecta Entertainment distributes the show.

2013 Revenue: $614 million
Stations: 15 in 10 markets
Coverage: 10.6%
Ownership: Cox Enterprises (private)
Key executives: Jimmy W. Hayes, president-CEO, Cox Enterprises; Bill Hoffman, president, Cox Media Group; Neil Johnston, EVP, Strategy & Digital Innovation, Cox Media Group; Jane Williams, EVP, Television; Mike Joseph, EVP, Cox Media Group; Charles Odom, VP-CFO, Cox Media Group

2013 Revenue: $502 million
Stations: 107 in 57 markets
Coverage: 15.7%
Ownership: Nexstar Broadcasting Group Inc. (NASDAQ:NXST)
Key executives: Perry A. Sook, chairman-president-CEO; Timothy Busch, EVP/co-COO; Brian Jones, EVP-co-COO; Tom Carter, EVP-CFO.

What’s up: Even though Nexstar’s big station buy announced in April 2013 — the $270 million buy of Communications Corp. of America’s 19 stations in 10 markets — is still awaiting FCC approval, Nexstar continues to add to its portfolio.

Last September it bought WOI Des Moines, Iowa (ABC); WHBF Rock Island, Ill. (CBS); and KCAU Sioux City, Iowa (ABC), from Citadel Communications for $88 million. At the same time, Nexstar’s duopoly partner, Mission Broadcasting, bought WICZ (Fox) and WBNP-LP, both Binghampton, N.Y, from Stainless Broadcasting for $15.25 million, with an agreement that Nexstar would operate both of them.

Then in November, Nexstar bought seven stations in four markets from the Grant Co. for $87.5 million. The stations: WFXR-WWCW Roanoke, Va. (Fox-CW, DMA  66); WZDX Huntsville, Ala. (Fox, DMA 79); KGCW-KLJB Quad Cities, Iowa (CW-Fox, DMA 41); and WLAX-WEUX La Crosse, Wis. (Fox-Fox, DMA 128).

In December, Nexstar agreed to pay $33.5 million to Gray Television for four stations Gray acquired from Hoak Media that Gray had to spin off to comply with FCC ownership rules. That deal, and another in which Nexstar’s sidecar company, Mission Broadcasting, bought KFQX Grand Junction, Colo., for $4 million, are awaiting FCC approval.

Last fall, the station group hired William Sally to be SVP and regional manager, East region, a new position at the company. He oversees several Nexstar east regional markets in Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, Indiana, Alabama and Maryland. He also has direct responsibility of the selected market general managers, their strategic planning and corporate and regional initiatives involving Nexstar’s on-air and digital platforms.

While it’s been busy making station acquisitions, Nexstar isn’t ignoring digital media opportunities. In March, it paid $20 million for Internet Broadcasting Systems Inc., which provides websites, a digital publishing platform, original and syndicated content, as well as one of the largest digital advertising agencies. That purchase follows its 2012 acquisition of Inergize Digital.

2013 Revenue: $458 million
Stations: 20 in 14 markets
Coverage: 15.3%
Ownership: E.W. Scripps Co. (NYSE: SSP)
Key executives: Richard A. Boehne, chairman, president and CEO, E.W. Scripps Co., and Brian Lawlor, SVP, television.

What’s up: In February, Scripps purchased ABC affiliate WKBW Buffalo (DMA 52) and MNT affiliate WMYD Detroit (DMA 11) from Granite Broadcasting for $110 million. The acquisition of WMYD would create a duopoly with Scripps’ largest station, ABC affiliate WXYZ Detroit. The deal is awaiting FCC approval.

That same month Scripps announced it was developing an original daytime program for fall 2014 to air on eight of its stations. Scripps, which already airs original game show Let’s Ask America and pop culture news show The List on several of its stations, said this new venture would be a live, news-oriented program that will have nationally focused content and some local content. It will air on ABC affiliate KNXV Phoenix and NBC affiliate KSHB Kansas City, Mo. and six other Scripps stations.

“It’s a 4 p.m. show,” says Bob Sullivan, VP of programming at E. W. Scripps. “We want to be live from 4 p.m. Eastern to 5 p.m. Pacific because the eight markets span four time zones.

At another of its stations, WMAR Baltimore, overhauled its 6 p.m. news in April. Instead of breaking news, viewers got long, pre-produced stories on illegal dumping, police overtime and big-event security.

Those enterprise stories added up to ABC2 In Focus, a new half-hour newscast that is intended to differentiate the Scripps-owned ABC affiliate by giving viewers something more substantial than they can find on rival stations driven by the day’s breaking news.

“We are all covering the same news every day,” says News Director Kelly Groft. “This is news but it takes a little longer. We let it breathe.”

The company’s bent for experimentation also extended to its digital properties. Last November, its Cincinnati ABC affiliate announced it was erecting a local TV news paywall for the site’s “premium” content at the beginning of 2014. What’s particularly interesting is that the paywall move was preceded by a major content play, bulking up WCPO’s bench to the tune of some 30 staffers, most of them editorial.

Des Moines, Iowa
2013 Revenue: $387 million
Stations: 27 in 11 markets
Coverage: 10.1%
Ownership: Meredith Corp. (NYSE: MDP)
Key executives: Stephen M. Lacy, chairman-CEO; Paul Karpowicz, president, Meredith Local Media Group

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What’s up: In February, Meredith completed its acquisition of CBS affiliate KMOV St. Louis (DMA 21), from Gannett Co. for $177 million. On Dec. 23, 2013, Meredith announced separate agreements to acquire KMOV and two stations in Phoenix from Sander Media. Meredith said in February that it expected to complete the $230.5 million acquisition of the Phoenix stations — KTVK, an independent, and KASW, the CW affiliate — by June 30, subject to FCC approval. The license and certain related assets of KASW will be purchased by a third party — SagamoreHill  — and Meredith will provide operational services since Meredith already owns KPHO, Phoenix’s CBS affiliate.

2013 Revenue: $344 million
Stations: 68 in 41 markets
Coverage: 7.4%
Ownership: Gray Television Inc. (NYSE: GTN)
Key executives: Hilton Howell, president-CEO; James C. Ryan, SVP-CFO; Kevin Latek, SVP of business affairs and general counsel

What’s up: Toward the end of last year, Gray and its duopoly partner Excalibur Broadcasting made a deal to buy 20 stations in nine markets from Hoak Media and its duopoly partner, Parker Broadcasting, for $335 million. All the stations are network affiliates, but seven are satellite stations and one is low power. To comply with the FCC’s local ownership limits, Gray spun off four of the Hoak stations — ABC affiliate WMBB Panama City, Fla., and CBS affiliate KREX Grand Junction, Colo.(with two satellites) — to Nexstar Broadcasting for $33.5 million.

Just last month, however, Gray received FCC approval to acquire six full-power TV stations and one low-power station (along with five satellite stations) in six markets in the Hoak deal. The company said it expects to close on the stations this quarter.

However, because of the FCC’s crackdown on joint sales and sharing agreements, other parts of the complex deal involving sidecar companies have been modified and are still under agency review.

The FCC approved and Gray closed on its acquisition of CW affiliates WQCW-WOCW-LP Charleston-Huntington, W.Va., from Lockwood Broadcast Group. Gray also owns the market’s NBC affiliate, WSAZ.

Last June saw the exit of Robert Prather as president-COO of Gray Television, which he and partner J. Mack Robinson took over in 1994 and built into a major group through a series of acquisitions.

In a terse announcement, the publicly traded company said that Prather has resigned from “all positions” and that that CEO Hilton Howell would assume the title of president. Howell is the son-in-law of Robinson, who died Feb. 8 after a long illness at 90.

In the wake of Prather’s leaving, the company adopted what it called a “streamlined management structure” consisting of a management team of five individuals who report to Gray Television President-CEO Hilton Howell. These five individuals, Gray said, “will be given responsibilities, some traditional and some new, that best elevate the talents of each.” They are Nick Waller, who oversees operations in Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee; Bob Smith (Wisconsin, Illinois, Colorado, Nevada, Nebraska, Kansas, and Texas); Jason Effinger (SVP of media and technology); Jim Ryan (AVP of finance and CFO); and Kevin Latek (SVP of business affairs).

Other activity since last year’s Top 30 included the $23 million purchase from Yellowstone Television last June of KGNS Laredo, Texas; KGWN and KCWY Cheyenne, Wyo.-Scottsbluff, Neb.; KCWY Casper, Wyo.; and some LPTVs and translators.

Last August, Gray kicked in $9 million along with $3 million from Excalibur for Grand Junction, Colo., ABC affiliate KJCT. While Excalibur is the owner, Gary operates the station through an SSA. Gray also owns the markets’s NBC affil, KKCO.

In December, Gray bought Fox affiliate KEVN Rapid City, S.D. (DMA 173), from Mission TV LLC for $7.75 million in cash. The transaction included KEVN’s satellite station in Lead, S.D., KIVV, and it closed on May 1.

Its latest station deal came earlier this month when it announced it was paying $2 million to Intermountain West Communications Co. for KTVH, the NBC affiliate in Helena, Mont. (DMA 205), and KBGF, the NBC affiliate in Great Falls, Mont. (DMA 190). Gray is also buying KMTF, the CW affiliate in Helena, from Rocky Mountain Broadcasting Co., subject to receipt of a “failing station waiver” from the FCC. Gray said that on June 1, it will begin operating the NBC stations pursuant to a local marketing agreement during the pre-closing period.

Washington, D.C.
2013 Revenue: $261 million
Stations: 5 in 5 markets
Coverage: 7.5%
Ownership: Graham Holdings Co. (NYSE: GHC)
Key executives: Donald Graham, chairman-CEO, Graham Holdings Co.; Emily L. Barr, president-CEO, Post-Newsweek Stations

What’s up: The former TV station arm of the Washington Post Co. separated itself with last year’s sale of The Washington Post to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Effective Nov. 29, 2013, the company that comprises Post-Newsweek stations, Kaplan and other non-Washington Post interests, became Graham Holdings Co., trading under the symbol GHC.

This March, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. bought Graham Holding’s WPLG Miami (DMA 16) in a deal that also involves a swap of stock and cash, putting the value of the ABC affiliate at $364 million. Berkshire Hathaway also received Berkshire shares currently held by Graham, plus cash. The deal is still awaiting FCC approval.

At the time of the sale’s announcement, Post-Newsweek President Emily Barr reassured employees that the group’s other five stations were not for sale. “When you are asked (and you will undoubtedly be asked) if Post-Newsweek Stations is for sale, you can emphatically state we are not,” she said.

2013 Revenue: $207 million
Coverage: 3.5%
Stations: 3 in 2 markets
Ownership: Ed Ansin
Key executives: Ed Ansin, president; Robert W. Leider, EVP-GM, Sunbeam; James Ansin, VP-GM, WSVN (Fox) Miami; Chris Wayland, VP-GM, WHDH (NBC)-WLVI (CW) Boston

2013 Revenue: $163 million
Stations: 16 in 10 markets
Coverage: 4.3%
Ownership: Journal Communications (NYSE:JRN)
Key executives: Steven J. Smith, chairman-CEO, Journal Communications; Andre J. Fernandez, president-COO, Journal Communications; Deborah Turner, EVP of television and president-GM News Channel 5 network, Nashville.

What’s up: Journal sold its Palm Springs, Calif., NBC-MNT duopoly of KMIR-KPSE-LP last October to OTA Broadcasting for $17 million in cash. OTA, backed by billionaire computer retailer Michael Dell, has been buying stations with an eye toward selling spectrum back to the government in the FCC’s planned incentive auction. The deal closed this January.

The group changed ad reps last December, choosing  Eagle Television Sales of the Katz Television Group as the new national sales representative for 10 of the company’s stations in seven markets: Boise, Idaho (KIVI-KNIN); Green Bay, Wis. (WGBA-WACY); Lansing, Mich. (WSYM); Las Vegas (KTNV); Palm Springs, Calif. (KMIR-KPSE); Milwaukee (WTMJ) and Twin Falls, Idaho (KSAW). Nashville station WTVF, which Journal acquired in December 2012, was already represented by Eagle.

At the beginning of this year, Journal Broadcast Group made organizational changes to its leadership team. Journal Broadcast Group began the year with executive moves that included promoting Debbie Turner, EVP-GM of WTVF Nashville, to EVP of television, reporting to Andre Fernandez, president-CFO of Journal Communications.

In addition, KNTV Las Vegas GM Jim Prather assumed group-wide responsibilities for a number of strategic television efforts including retransmission consent agreement negotiations, network relations, original programming initiatives and TV Everywhere.

Former Fisher Communications executive Brian McHale was named Journal’s VP-chief technology officer in March, succeeding the retiring Andy Laird.

Los Angeles
2013 Revenue: $126 million
Stations: 65 in 23 markets
Coverage: 13.9%
Ownership: Entravision Communications Corp. (NYSE: EVC)
Key executives: Walter F. Ulloa, chairman-CEO; Christopher T. Young, EVP-CFO-treasurer; Jeffery A. Liberman, COO; Mario M. Carrera, chief revenue officer

What’s up: In advance of the FCC’s adopting a new regulation that would generally bar broadcasters from joint TV station retransmission consent negotiations, in March, Univision Communications asked the FCC to allow it to continue negotiating retransmission consent deals for all Entravision Communications stations.

St. Paul, Minn.
2013 Revenue: $117 million
Stations: 14 in 7 markets
Coverage: 3.3%
Ownership: Hubbard family
Key executives: Stanley S. Hubbard, chairman; Rob Hubbard, president, Hubbard Television Group

What’s up: Hubbard made what President Rob Hubbard called a tough decision last December when it opted to change representation, dropping Petry Media for CoxReps. “It was no fun,” Hubbard said, noting that the family-owned broadcast group’s relationship with Petry dates back to the 1920s.

Another, less painful, move Hubbard made at the end of last year was the deal it signed with Internet Broadcasting Systems to provide digital advertising operations support for Hubbard’s TV group. The partnership includes creative development through campaign coordination and trafficking, as well as SEO and SEM.

22. Quincy Newspapers Inc.
Quincy, Ill.
Ownership: Private
2013 Revenue: $109 million
Coverage: 1.8%

Key executives: Ralph M. Oakley, president-CEO; Dennis Kendall, director of broadcast news; Dan Batchelor, director of broadcast sales

What’s up: This private, family-owned media company made acquisition news in February with its deal to buying three stations from Granite Broadcasting Corp. and one owned by Malara Broadcasting for $190 million. The stations are WEEK (NBC) Peoria-Bloomington, Ill. (DMA 117); WPTA (ABC-CW) Fort Wayne, Ind. (DMA 109); KBJR (NBC-MNT) and its satellite, KRII, in Duluth, Minn.-Superior, Wis. (DMA 139); and WBNG (CBS-CW) Binghamton, N.Y. (DMA 157).

In addition to owning and operating the newly acquired stations, Quincy said it would provide operating services to several stations, including WHOI and WAOE in Peoria-Bloomington, Ill., as well as stations to be acquired by Sagamore Hill Broadcasting: WISE Fort Wayne, Ind., and KDLH Duluth, Minn.-Superior, Wis. Those moves, which preceded the FCC’s crackdown on sharing agreements, may be why the deal is still awaiting FCC action.

Quincy Broadcasting upgraded its seven-year-old centralcasting setup with an infusion of new technology from Harris Broadcast that’s expected to improve the group’s workflow and cut down costs. The upgrade brought the group’s 12th station into its hub-and-spoke model last October, allowing the hubs to time and distribute syndicated programming, in addition to some new proprietary tasks, like distributing syndicated promos.

In December, NAB Television Board Chair Marci Burdick appointed Quincy Newspapers President-CEO Ralph Oakley to the NAB TV board of directors. He replaced Scott Blumenthal, LIN Media EVP of television, who retired.

St. Paul, Minn.
Ownership: Evening Post Industries (private)
2013 Revenue: $99 million
Stations: 26 in 12 markets
Coverage: 2%
Key executives: John Barnwell, CEO, Evening Post Industries; Terry Hurley, president; Cordillera; Dan Stein, director of programming and operations

What’s up: Last August, the parent company of Cordillera Communications, Evening Post Publishing Co., changed its name to Evening Post Industries. According to company CEO John Barnwell: “The name change better reflects our existing diversified holdings and ongoing acquisition strategy beyond media, while keeping the legacy value of Evening Post.”

Mishawaka, Ind.
Ownership: Private
2013 Revenue: $90 million
Stations: 17 stations in 9 markets
Coverage: 1.9%
Key executives: Franklin D. Schurz Jr., chairman; Scott Schurz Sr., vice chairman; Todd Schurz, president-CEO; Marci Burdick, SVP of broadcasting

What’s up: Schurz enlarged its holdings last October with the $10 million purchase of ABC affiliate KOTA Rapid City, S.D., from the Duhamel family. Bill Duhamel said: “The rapidly consolidating television industry makes it difficult for a single, stand-alone business to remain competitive and to develop the necessary capital to expand into the digital era.” The sale was approved this March.

Schurz Communications adopted Critical Media’s video publishing, syndication and licensing solutions at its local newspapers, television and radio stations to speed the delivery of video news coverage to its Web and mobile platforms. Schurz said it will syndicate content to enterprises and vertical websites while also extending distribution opportunities in the over-the-top TV market. Schurz will use two of Critical Media’s platforms — video editing and publishing through Syndicaster (for its TV stations), and monetization through syndication and new distribution through ClipSyndicate (for all SCI properties).

Earlier this month, Kerry Oslund and Scott Schurz Jr. were promoted to new roles on the Schurz Communications Inc. senior corporate staff. Oslund, formerly the VP of digital media, became the SVP of publishing and emerging media. Schurz Jr., who had been the president of SCI-owned Advocate Communications Inc. was named VP of corporate development.

West Palm Beach, Fla.
Ownership: Private
2013 Revenue: $90 million
Stations: 73 stations 58 markets
Coverage: 66.3%
Executives: Brandon Burgess, chairman-CEO; Joseph Koker, stations

What’s up: Three TV stations owned by Roberts Broadcasting Co., which filed for bankruptcy in 2011, were purchased last December by Ion Media Networks for $7.75 million. The stations were WRBU St. Louis (formerly MNT, now Ion); WZRB Columbia, S.C. (formerly CW, now Ion); and WAZE-LP Evansville, Ind.

Ownership: Private
2013 Revenue: $82 million
Stations: 13 in 4 markets
Coverage: 3.8%
Executives: Norman Shapiro, chairman; Neal Sabin, vice chairman; Bob Ramsey, VP of local media; Jim Hall, VP of business development; Kyle Walker , VP of technology; Molly Kelly, corporate director of media strategy

What’s up: After two and half years as VP-GM of Weigel’s Chicago independent WCIU, Bob Ramsey was promoted last November to EVP of the station’s parent, giving him responsibility for all local broadcast operations in Chicago, Milwaukee and South Bend, Ind. Weigel Broadcasting Chairman Norman Shapiro announced Ramsey’s promotion as part of a corporate management reorganization.

Neal Sabin, who had been president of content and networks, was promoted to vice chairman of Weigel Broadcasting. He will continue his current creative and management responsibilities for all of the company’s networks and work with Shapiro on the strategic growth of its properties.

In other appointments at the company: Jim Hall, GM of WDJT Milwaukee, was named VP of business development; Kyle Walker was named VP, technology; and Molly Kelly was named corporate director of media strategy.

Columbus, Ohio
Ownership: Private
2013 Revenue: $82 million
Stations: 3 stations in 2 markets
Coverage: 1.8%
Executives: Michael J. Fiorele, vice chairman-CEO; John Cardenas, VP of news and president-GM, WBNS Columbus, Ohio; Larry Delia, VP-GM, WTHR Indianapolis

Omaha, Neb.
Ownership: Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK.A)
2013 Revenue: $71 million
Stations: 1 station
Coverage: 1.4%
Executives: Warren Buffett, chairman-president-CEO; Charlie Munger, vice chairman

What’s up: A holding company for a multitude of businesses run by Chairman-CEO Warren Buffett. Last August Berkshire Hathaway dumped its shares of Gannett and took a new position in Dish Network. Then this March, it bought Post-Newsweek’s ABC affiliate in Miami, WPLG, as part of a larger $1.2 billion deal involving a stock swap between Berkshire Hathaway and Post-Newsweek parent Graham Holdings and some cash. The deal values WPLG at $364 million.

Oklahoma City
Ownership: Private (David, Kristen and John Griffin)
2013 Revenue: $69 million
Stations: 3 in 2 markets
Coverage: 1.1%

Executives: David Griffin, chairman-CEO; Ted Strickland, VP-CFO; Rob Krier, VP-COO

Raleigh, N.C.
Ownership: Private
2013 Revenue: $67 million
Stations: 4 in 2 markets
Coverage: 1%
Executives: James F. Goodmon, president-CEO; Daniel P. McGrath, VP-treasurer; James F. Goodmon Jr., VP, new media group.

Comments (13)

Leave a Reply

Brian Bussey says:

May 22, 2014 at 9:45 am

lets rank these mergers by how many people got laid off and how conpensation increased for the corporate shirts who dont produce new stories or do not sell ads.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    May 22, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    So you and the other comments of this ilk are for Socialism instead of Capitalism on which this Country was built. Good to know.

    Gene Johnson says:

    May 22, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    In what way does HopeUMakeit’s comment suggest he/she is for Socialism? It’s a fact of life that most mergers such as those discussed in the article result in employee layoffs, increased debt, and rarely any improvement in consumer/customer service. Given the Capitalism supposedly relies on effective competition to achieve its benefits, why do you believe that those opposed to such mergers are socialists or for socialism? Those who really believe in capitalism should want to see effective competition among many players, not reduced competition and fewer people working.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    May 22, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    To any reasonable person, they would only need to reread the post “lets rank these mergers by how many people got laid off and how conpensation (sic) increased for the the corporate shirts who dont produce new (sic) stories or do not sell ads.” If you are unable to realize that post is anti-capitalism and pro-socialist, then I really cannot help you.

    Maria Black says:

    May 23, 2014 at 8:28 am

    The only founding principles this country had were Deism and that this was a Representative Republic. Socialism and Capitalism are byproducts of a later era, and those ideals were not part of our country’s founding. And Socialism, I might add, would oppose mergers and individual ownership of something so important as our public airwaves, and would favor government control, which is not what HopeUMakeit is advocating. Also, true Capitalism would disapprove of the mergers, as the creation of huge media conglomerates would decrease the competition between stations. So really, there is nothing in your comment that is correct, other than your usage of ilk, which is laudable.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    May 23, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    Your post is so full of flaws in its attempt to twist something around to try and make points it would take a JC 5000 word post to address it all, which I am not inclined to do. 1) The Country’s founders believed in a higher being, but one that did not care about us. 2) I never stated that the Country was founded on Capitalism v Socialism. 3) HopeUMakeIt’s entire post is based on mergers should be looked at on the effect they have on people’s jobs (which as the base principal of the Founding Fathers that “the higher being” did not care about us, and thus goes against that basic concept you seem to be trying to weave into this). 4) The Public Airwaves are the Public Airwaves, despite your assertion of the opposite. The Company pays for the license, which can be revoked, as we have seen in the past. 5) To say that Capitalism would disapprove of mergers is fiction. Monopolies yes, Mergers no. 6) As thus, your entire post is nothing but a group of assorted facts which does nothing to build a case to the point HopeUMakeIt and yourself are trying to establish.

    Brian Bussey says:

    December 22, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    American History is not your strong point. You expose your shortfall with your capitalism comment.

Julien Devereux says:

May 22, 2014 at 10:03 am

It’s what I call Clear Channeling… Buy everything you can and amass a huge amount of debt. Then reduce “synergies” until there’s hardly anyone left and quality of the product falls, while telling everyone it’s all getting better and better. Then continually kick the can of debt down the road…

Scott Schirmer says:

May 22, 2014 at 10:07 am

Betasso is no longer with Gannett.

Christina Fleming says:

May 22, 2014 at 11:44 am

nothing to add to the first two brilliant comments. they are right on the money.

Rachel Martin says:

May 22, 2014 at 11:53 am

It takes “two to tango”. The sellers are unable to continue to run their companies at a profit margin suitable to longterm health. Unfortunately, as in any merger, the areas of duplication that get cut. Peopless Master Control, robotic cameras, and centralized/regional hubbing of traffic/accounting, and MMJ’s versus photog’s are the reasons people are loosing jobs. Mergers simply speed up the process that would have inevitable happened in the longrun…or why would they be selling?

    Brian Bussey says:

    December 22, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    “these sellers are unable to run their companies at a profit margin suitable to longterm health” !!
    what a fricking joke. !! and I know.
    I am a employee of one of the above referenced companies and we print money like the mint. Your “tango”
    had nothing whatsoever t do with logic or leverage or clout. It was only about money going to a small group of people who were alredy rich.

Gene Johnson says:

May 22, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Why would they be selling? For the financial benefit that can accrue to shareholders and executives. Simple as that. How much money were the merger entities losing at the time of their mergers? It’s a matter of either increasing the value of equity held, cashing out on equity held, increasing the longer term value of equity held, or possibly increasing profit margins. It’s all about benefiting those at the top, regardless of the impact on employees, consumers or the public interest.

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