The Chicago-based group owner completes the final steps of its $2.73 billion transaction announced in July.
The commission on Friday gave the green light to the $1.5 billion Gannett buy of Belo’s 20 stations (minus KMOV St. Louis, which it is spinning off) as well as the $2.7 billion purchase by Tribune Co. of Local TV LLC’s 16 stations. Gannett says it expects to close its deal next week.
Free Press and Put People First PA allege that Tribune’s proposed transfer of the three Local TV stations to a “shell corporation” are designed to let Tribune operate stations in markets where it also owns daily newspapers.
With the acquisition of Local TV’s 19 stations in 16 markets, Tribune’s broadcast portfolio will swell from 23 to 42 stations — 14 CW affiliates, 14 Fox affiliates, five CBS affiliates, three ABC affiliates, two NBC affiliates and four independents.
As one industry observer puts it: “If you’re not looking to merge or acquire, you’re a bonehead dinosaur. Everybody should be on the block. If you bought assets to eventually sell, now is the time to sell.” Among the station groups in play are Local TV LLC/FoxCo’s 21 stations; Allbritton; Grant Communications; and Granite Broadcasting. Possible buyers include Sinclair, Nexstar, Fox, Raycom, LIN and ABC.
It’s signed a letter of intent and is conducting due diligence on CCA properties encompassing 12 stations in smaller markets. The deal would boost Nexstar’s portfolio to about 84 stations. In other TV group news, Local TV LLC has put itself up for sale.
Local TV had threatened to pull 21 stations from the satellite service if it couldn’t reach an agreement on retrans fees by midnight tonight. “We are pleased to have reached an agreement with Local TV LLC that we believe is fair and equitable for our customers, who will continue to enjoy Local TV-owned channels without interruption,” said DirecTV said in a statement.
Local TV’s CBS affiliate is asking the FCC for a “failing station” waiver that would allow it to buy RTN affilate KPBI for $800,000.
Moody’s Investors Service changed its ratings outlook for Local TV Finance LLC’s to “positive” from “stable” and affirmed the company’s existing ratings including its Caa1 Corporate Family Rating (CFR) and Probability of Default Rating as well as its debt instrument ratings. Local TV has approximately $525 million of rated debt.
Local TV’s low-rated MNT affiliate has calculated that it may be able find its place in the 45th largest TV market by focusing on the large local community with connections to the military. If successful, Freedom 43, as the station is now calling itself, could prove the value of seeking niche audiences other than those based of gender, age or ethnicity, says Hofstra media prof Bob Papper.