The Gray Television exec-turned-station-owner criticized the broadcast networks for their insatiable reverse comp demands. “At some point, we won’t have any incentive to take money from the cable guys [in retrans], if they want it all. And I think they want to get as close to all as they can, frankly.”
With backing from an Atlanta private equity firm, former Gray exec Bob Prather agrees to pay $115 million for five small-market network affils: Nexstar’s WFFT Ft. Wayne, Ind. (Fox, DMA 111) and KQTV St. Joseph, Mo. (ABC, DMA 201), and Media General’s KIMT Rochester, Minn.; (CBS, DMA 153), WTHI Terra Haute, Ind. (CBS, DMA 155); and WLFI Lafayette, Ind. (CBS, DMA 187).
The former president-COO of Gray Television has filed with the FCC to purchase the NBC affiliate in Utica, N.Y., from Smith Media
CEO Hilton Howell takes on the additional title of president as Prather leaves the 17th largest station group without an explanation. “I want to thank Bob Prather for his service to the company,” Howell says in a prepared statement.
Gray Television President-COO Bob Prather turned early lessons, a grad-school thesis and an investment in a former gold mining concern into one of the larger pure-play broadcasting groups in the U.S.
Unlike many of its TV group peers, Gray Television didn’t fall victim to the Great Recession. Instead, it stuck to its lean management strategy; made judicious investments in technology that helped lower costs; and worked hard to reduce debt. All that, coupled with a growing ad market, means that Bob Prather, Hilton Howell and company can enjoy a turnaround.
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Gray Television COO Bob Prather says his company is looking for 3Q revenues to be up 28% to 31%. Excluding political, local is expected to be up 6% to 8% and national 6% to 7%. Also in 3Q, Gray is on track to book $4.8 million in Olympics-related advertising on its NBC stations, up from $3.4 million for the 2008 Summer Games.
After talking for nine months on a plan in which NBC would use its clout and scale to negotiate attractive retrans deals with cable and satellite in exchange for a percentage of the revenue, there is still no agreement. But both sides say they’re confident there will be one. The problem is that there is no one-size fits-all formula.
It turns out it’s broadcast veteran Tony Cassara (left) along with other New Young’s board members Tom Sullivan, Sheldon Galloway and Kevin Shea. The board gets an assist from Young President Deborah McDermott who oversees KRON San Francisco, WATE Knoxville, Tenn., and WLNS Lansing, Mich. Cassara says the $2.2 million annual management contract with Gray Television is really an advisory agreement. “They do not manage our stations,” Cassara says. “The general managers of those seven stations report to the board.”