During quarterly earnings conference calls this morning, CEOs of both companies acknowledged it’s tough deciding which stations to divest to clear the way for their proposed merger. But decisions will have to come soon. “This will be a third-quarter kind of event for us,” said George Mahoney, president-CEO of Media General.
The M&A market likely will tick up in the current quarter as Media General and LIN Media sell or swap stations in five markets to clear the way for their merger.
The five markets are Birmingham and Mobile, Ala.; Providence, R.I.; Savannah, Ga.; and Green Bay, Wis.
“This will be a third-quarter kind of event for us,” said George Mahoney, president-CEO of Media General.
The station divestitures are required under rules the FCC recently toughened prohibiting a station group from owning more than one station in a market.
“It’s causing some angst for us,” said Media General CEO George Mahoney. “They’re not stations that anyone in his right mind would want to get rid of.”
“These are difficult decisions,” said Vincent Sadusky, president-CEO of LIN Media. “These are very strong properties. Hopefully, we’ll have having something to announce in the very near future.”
The Providence market, where Media General owns WJAR (NBC) and LIN owns WPRI (CBS) and operates WNAC (Fox) through a marketing agreement, may be causing the most angst.
WJAR is the top rated station in Providence, with WPRI a close second, Mahoney said. “Combined, we have about 80% of the market in Providence,” he noted.
The other overlaps include:
- Savannah, where Media General owns WSAV (NBC), LIN owns WJCL (ABC) and operates WTGS (Fox) through a marketing agreement.
- Birmingham, where Media General owns WVTM (NBC) and LIN owns WIAT (CBS).
- Mobile, where Media General owns WKRG (CBS) and LIN owns WALA (Fox) and WFNA (CW).
- Green Bay, where Media General owns WBAY (ABC) and LIN owns WLUK (Fox) and WCWF (CW).
Both companies have scheduled special shareholder meetings for Aug. 20 for shareholders to vote on the $1.6 billion merger. Boards of both companies have already unanimously approved the merger.