Quincy, Meredith Kicking Off 2021 M&A Season With Station Sales

All of Quincy and four Meredith stations are being prepped for sale, with second-round bids due to the sellers in the week of Jan. 18. Quincy could command as much as $1 billion. Entire Meredith group may be in play.

The station trading market is off to a hot start in 2021, but whether it stays that way will depend on what help or hindrance it gets from Washington.

All of Quincy Media’s 24 stations in 16 small markets are on the block and expected to be acquired by a single buyer, according to multiple sources.

Meanwhile, Meredith has four stations up for sale, also according to several sources. The quartet: CBS-MNT affiliate WNEM Saginaw, Mich.; Fox affiliate WALA Mobile, Ala.; ABC-CBS-Fox affiliate WGGB Springfield, Mass.; and CBS affiliate KMOV St. Louis, Mo.

Second-round bids are due to both companies in the week of Jan. 18.

Who is bidding is unclear, but possible buyers include private equity investor Apollo Global Management, which bought a majority stake in Cox last year; Allen Media, owned by Byron Allen; and Standard Media, headed by Deborah McDermott and backed by hedge fund manager Soo Kim. Publicly traded consolidators Tegna, Gray and Sinclair may also be in the hunt.

Sources say that Quincy could go for between $900 million and $1 billion, while the four Meredith properties could bring $400 million-$500 million.


An announcement from Quincy is expected later today, while a Meredith representative commented: “As part of our ongoing strategic planning process, we regularly review our media portfolio to determine what steps we could pursue to enhance shareholder value. As a matter of policy, we never publicly speculate on this process.”

According to one source, Meredith is also considering selling its entire station group. Meredith has been unsure of its broadcasting future ever since its planned merger with Media General collapsed in 2016. The price tag for all of Meredith would exceed $2 billion, sources say.

Despite the early activity, 2021 may or may not be a big year for station trading. It will depend in large part on how the new Democratic FCC chair — whoever that turns out to be — feels about station consolidation.

Republican Chairman Ajit Pai, who favored a light regulatory touch, is out upon the inauguration of Joe Biden as president on Jan. 20. (Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel will step up to become interim chairman, but Biden may have others in mind for the job on a permanent basis.)

If the new chairman wants to keep a tight lid on consolidation, he or she only has to remove the UHF discount. Station ownership is capped by statute at 39% of TV homes, but with the discount on UHF stations in calculating the percentage, groups can increase their reach up to 78%. It allowed the merger of Nexstar and Tribune with a reach well over 60%

The Tom Wheeler FCC during the Obama years removed the discount to curtail station mergers, but Pai restored it after he was appointed chairman in 2017. Without the discount, potential station buyers such as Nexstar, Sinclair, Tegna, Fox would be out of play and mergers between large groups would be difficult.

The new FCC and antitrust regulators at the Justice Department also will have to decide about what to do with the now-banned practice of owning two network affiliates in the same market. Keeping that restriction in place would suppress mergers and acquisitions.

This summer, the Supreme Court is expected to give the station market a boost by affirming the FCC’s 2017 relaxation of local and cross-media ownership rules.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to correct the call letters of Meredith’s Springfield, Mass., station.

TVNewsCheck Co-Founder and Editor at Large Harry A. Jessell contributed to this report.

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weneedhelpnow says:

January 8, 2021 at 6:47 am

When are companies going to realize that local TV stations are a bad investment??? The cash flows are severely down from 5 years ago and the streaming services are taking their audiences in droves..