Ion Media — a privately held operator of 70 stations across the US — has joined buyout firm Cerberus Capital and Hicks Equity Partners in a bid to buy Tribune Media, according to a source close to the situation.
It solidifies its position as nation’s largest TV spectrum operator by adding stations in Los Angeles (purchased from Sunbelt Television) and Cleveland, Indianapolis, Columbus and Dayton (from Trinity Broadcasting).
With the completion of the purchase from Ironwood Communications, the group expands to 65 full-power stations in 59 markets. It’s changing the station’s calls to WIPL.
Financial and operating results drive upgraded performance outlook from financial ratings agencies. It extends Chairman-CEO Brandon Burgess’ contract and he says the company is looking to expand original content, large-market station holdings and wants to innovate with its inventory of spectrum.
A new Ion Media-commissioned Nielsen study confirms younger, more diverse audiences are increasingly turning to broadcast television.
The purchases of WRBU St. Louis; WZRB Columbia, S.C.; and KTRV Boise, Idaho, expand the group’s portfolio to 63 stations in 58 markets, including all of the top 20 and 24 of the top 25. Terms weren’t disclosed.
Ion Media CEO Brandon Burgess commended FCC Chairman Ajit Pai for restoring the UHF discount in calculating compliance with the 39% national ownership cap — a move that will allow Ion to be sold in toto even though its coverage (64.8%) far exceeds the nominal cap. “This action allows small entrepreneurial and consumer-oriented companies like Ion Media to continue to succeed in a consolidating media world,” he said in an open letter.
While the spectrum auction and repack could raise challenges, most multicast network players say they’re bullish on the business, especially with the likely adoption of ATSC 3.0. Diginets keep adding affiliates and expanding coverage and the top ones have begun attracting general market advertising. This is Part 1 of a four-part special report on multicasting. Parts 2 and 3 also appear today. Part 4, running Thursday morning, will focus on the technology of compression and channel sharing. You can read the other stories here.