The Justice Department has signed off on the sale of 15 TV stations from Evening Post Industries’ (EPI) Cordillera Communications to Scripps for $521 million. That came in an early termination notice Tuesday released by the Federal Trade Commission, which divvies up merger reviews. The notice means that the antitrust review has been ended early with no issues that would cause the deal to be blocked or conditioned.
Lately, the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice headed by Makan Delrahim has been undermining the FCC — and perhaps even Congress — and disrupting the broadcasting business as it struggles to ward off rivals for viewers and ad dollars on multiple fronts. I cannot remember a time when Justice has plunged so deeply into the nitty gritty of the broadcasting advertising marketplace and what kind of local station combinations should be allowed.
Department of Justice antitrust chief Makan Delrahim says that Justice will hold a two-day workshop on the impact of online advertising on the local broadcast TV market, and whether it should adjust its merger reviews given the argument that the edge is now competing for the local car dealer ads and should be considered part of the relevant competitive market.
The group says that since the DOJ blocked its acquision of a CBS affiliation in Casper that would have given it essential retrans revenue, it’s merging news operations at its NBC affiliate KCWY Casper, Wyo., with those of its KGWN in Cheyenne and cutting back in Casper.
The Department of Justice is prepared to put the ball back in Disney’s court for unloading Fox’s regional sports networks, saving Disney from a fire sale and billions of dollars in losses, two sources with direct knowledge of the situation said. Justice is poised to allow Disney to spin off the control of Fox’s 22 regional sports networks to complete its $71 billion deal for Fox, one of the sources said, as opposed to finding an actual buyer.
The Department of Justice has decided against ramping up an investigation into Comcast’s seven-year-old acquisition of NBCUniversal — despite President Trump recently doubling down on his criticism of the tie-up as anticompetitive.
Gray and Raycom must divest television stations in nine markets to receive approval of the $3.6 billion merger.
Nexstar has reached a settlement with the Justice Department over DOJ’s investigation into the TV ad market, specifically what DOJ says are anticompetitive exchanges of competitively sensitive information. It has already settled with Sinclair, Raycom, Tribune, Meredith, Griffin and Dreamcatcher, but added Nexstar to the settlement as a defendant Thursday (Dec. 13) and filed a proposed settlement at the same time, as it did with the others, which all settled Nov. 13.
Judges probing arguments for and against the AT&T-Time Warner merger attacked the Department of Justice’s argument that a lower court judge exhibited clear error in allowing the deal to go through and rejecting the government’s economic analysis that the combined company would use its leverage to raise retail prices anticompetitively. Judges sometimes play devil’s advocate, but DOJ clearly got the tougher — and much longer — end of the grilling.