A judicial panel has consolidated at least 18 antitrust suits against five TV station groups for allegedly colluding on spot pricing in the federal district court in Chicago. The defendants, which include Tribune, Sinclair and in some cases Gray, Hearst, Nexstar and Tegna, had pushed for the consolidation. The proliferatng suits are an outgrowth of a Justice Department review of the merger of Sinclair and Tribune, which was scuttled after the FCC found evidence of misrepresentation by Sinclair. (Free registration required.)
The imminent collapse of Sinclair’s merger makes the combative station group one of the all-time losers in FCC regulatory history, but they’re not the only ones who’ve lost. Here are some of the other losers caught up in this week’s train wreck along with some of the winners. At the top of the latter group is FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who has clearly signaled that he is no pushover.
Sinclair, Nexstar, Univision and American Tower partner on developing a next-gen TV single frequency network that will be a test of a developed model for the transition from ATSC 1.0 to 3.0 and the deployment of SFN sites in preparation for future national deployment of 3.0 broadcast services.
The FCC has finally gotten around to asking Sinclair how it intends to comply with the national and local ownership rules. The merger puts it in nominal violation of the caps and it will have to do something to get below them. I applaud the FCC move as the public has the right to know just how Sinclair plans to proceed.
The news this week that Fox and Blackstone are forming a joint venture to acquire Tribune Media had researchers, analysts and plain old columnists like me wondering why, and sorting through the implications not only for Fox, but also for Sinclair, Nexstar and CBS.
The company attributes the softness to weakness in the food and retail categories and the loss of revenue from for-profit technical schools that have gone out of business. The good news was auto, which grew 3%.
21st Century Fox’s plan to form a joint venture with Blackstone to buy Tribune Media would create value from cost synergies and by putting Fox into six more NFL markets, says the securities research firm. What’s more, it blocks Sinclair from acquiring the Tribune stations — a move that would boost Sinclair’s national programming ambitions and get it more leverage in reverse comp dealings.
Evidence is emerging that if station groups are allowed to scale up, they will become better broadcasters, pumping still more news and entertainment into the expanding TV ecosphere to the benefit of all — viewers and advertisers. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is expected to move to loosen the ownership caps this year. Those opposed had better bring more to the debate than just theories about the inherent badness of bigness.
Sinclair Broadcast Group is offering 12 million primary shares of Class A common stock. The company said it intends to grant the underwriters a 30-day option to purchase up to an additional 1.8 million shares of Class A common stock on the same terms and conditions. Sinclair said the money raised will “be used to fund future potential acquisitions and for general corporate purposes.” It didn’t say how much it hopes to raise.
Sinclair Broadcast Group has begun to roll out a first-of-its kind, over-the-air multicast network showing digital programming that’s designed to appeal to millennials. TBD will feature web series, short films, fashion, comedy, lifestyle, online video game competitions, music and viral content and will air on many of its stations in 81 markets.