A scarcity of M&A activity in the last year resulted in few changes in TVNewsCheck's annual ranking of station groups by revenue. The first 11 slots remained the same, with Fox Television Stations on top. The big change was the loss of Journal Broadcast Group, which merged with E.W. Scripps.
Status Quo Rules Top 30 Station Groups
As a result of a very quiet station-trading marketplace in the past 12 months, there were only a few changes to TVNewsCheck’s annual ranking of the Top 30 TV Station Groups. In fact, the top 11 companies on the list retained their positions from a year ago.
Only one company left the list — Journal Broadcast Group (last year’s No. 19) was absorbed into E.W. Scripps, which moved up two slots to the No. 14 position.
Filling the vacancy created by Journal’s exit is privately held News-Press & Gazette Co., whose NPG Broadcast unit delivered $70.6 million in 2014 revenues to land it at No. 30.
Other than that, there were only small moves in rank position, the greatest being Cordillera Communications’ rise from No. 23 a year ago to 20 this year.
Three companies changed position by two slots, nine by a single position.
TVNewsCheck’s annual ranking of the Top 30 is based on advertising revenue estimates for 2014 provided through an exclusive arrangement with BIA/Kelsey.
TV’s Top 30 Group Owners
|Rank||Group||2014 Rev. (000)|
|30||News-Press & Gazette||$70,580|
The rankings are based on advertising estimates alone, and do not include other revenue from retransmission consent, websites and other digital ventures.
Also, although the estimates are for 2014, the station groups are credited for revenue for all stations they own and operate as well as for any stations they announced they are acquiring between May 22, 2014, when the last Top 30 was posted, and April 30, even if the deals have not closed.
Looking ahead to next year, it’s likely there could be some movement based on increased revenue generated by groups with stations in areas with strong political spending.
The number of stations may change next year following the FCC’s scheduled spectrum auction, says Mark Fratrik, BIA/Kelsey SVP and chief economist. “But this year I don’t see many changes given the constraints of the FCC’s local ownership rules, and that’s not changing any time soon. Many of these groups are constrained from growing any bigger — both on a local level and [in terms of] national reach.”
The auction, Fratrick says, may appeal to some of the smaller groups below the TVN Top 30 that may decide to opt out.
“There are a lot of people out there looking to buy, pick up a few markets here and there,” Fratrik says.
BIA/Kelsey, an investment and research firm based in Chantilly, Va., tracks station group ownership and uses information from individual stations and markets, in addition to historical data, to generate its station and market ad revenue estimates. It checks its estimates against whatever public information is available, Fratrik says.
BIA/Kelsey ranks Mission Broadcasting and stations owned by Stephen Mumblow and Cunningham Broadcasting as distinct groups with distinct ownership. But because they function essentially as subsidiaries of Sinclair, TVNewsCheck lumps their revenues together. The same holds true for Gannett, which includes the revenue of Sander Media; Tribune, which includes the revenue of Dreamcatcher Broadcasting; and Nexstar, which includes the revenue of Mission Broadcasting.
The group station coverage figures and numbers of stations/markets were also provided by BIA/Kelsey. (Editor’s note: The coverage numbers for some groups were incorrectly reported when this story was originally posted. They have been updated.) The number of stations includes full-power and low-power stations.
1. FOX TELEVISION STATIONS
2014 Revenue: $1.7 billion
Stations: 28 in 17 markets
Ownership: 21st Century Fox (NASDAQ: FOXA)
Key Executives: Rupert Murdoch, chairman-CEO, 21st Century Fox; Chase Carey, president-COO, 21st Century Fox; James Murcoch, co-COO, 21st Century Fox; Roger Ailes, chairman-CEO, Fox News/chairman, Fox Television Stations; Gary Newman, chairman-CEO, Fox Television Group; Dana Walden, chairman-CEO, Fox Television Group; Jack Abernethy, CEO, Fox Television Stations; Dennis Swanson, president, station operations, Fox Television Stations.
What’s Up: Fox Television Stations CEO Jack Abernethy has long made clear the company’s desire to own stations in top markets with NFC teams to take full advantage of the Fox network’s rights to broadcast NFC games every Sunday. So last September, Fox told Tribune that it was terminating its affiliation for KCPQ Seattle and offered to swap its MNT affiliate in Chicago, WPWR, for KCPQ. Then, at the beginning of October, Fox announced it was buying KBCB in the Seattle suburb of Bellingham, Wash. But in a surprise move, on Oct. 17, the two announced a new multi-year extension of the Fox affiliation for KCPQ through July 2018, which is concurrent with the timing of seven other Tribune Broadcasting Fox affiliation agreements.
Joseph Dorrego, who was VP of investor relations for 21st Century Fox, became Fox Television Stations’ CFO-SVP in February. He replaced Betsy Swanson, who retired after 30 years with the group.
2. CBS TELEVISION STATIONS
2014 Revenue: $1.6 billion
Stations: 30 in 18 markets
Ownership: CBS Corp. (NYSE:CBS)
Key Executives: Sumner Redstone, executive chairman, CBS Corp.; Leslie Moonves, president-CEO, CBS Corp.; Peter Dunn, president, CBS Television Stations; Anton Guitano, COO, CBS Local Media; Ezra Kucharz, president, CBS Local Digital Media.
What’s Up: CBS Television Stations took its first step into digital subchannels and it’s a big one with diginet Decades, offering classic TV, movies and documentaries loosely organized around decades, and a daily newsmagazine about the recent past hosted by Bill Kurtis. The multicast network debuted May 25 with partner Weigel Broadcasting (Top 30 group No. 25) handling Decades’ programming and distribution to other station groups.
Last December, the station group agreed to provide local news, weather and entertainment content from CBS O&Os to Curb’s Taxi TV network of taxis and for-hire vehicles.
3. SINCLAIR BROADCAST GROUP
2014 Revenue: $1.5 billion
Stations: 128 in 78 markets
Ownership: Sinclair Broadcasting Group Inc. (Nasdaq: SBGI)
Key Executives: David Smith, president-CEO, Sinclair Broadcast Group; David Amy, EVP-COO; Christopher Ripley, CFO; Barry Faber, EVP-general counsel; Steven M. Marks, VP/co-COO, Sinclair Television Group; Stephen J. Pruett, VP/co-COO, Sinclair Television Group
What’s Up: Sinclair continues to aggressively promote the adoption of a next-generation TV standard, ATSC 3.0, that would let TV stations deliver their over-the-air signals directly to mobile devices. According to Sinclair CEO David Smith, without that ability, broadcasters will lose to cable and telcos and become “essentially a three-legged dog in a four-legged dog, fast-track world.”
To celebrate its 20 years as a publicly-traded company, Sinclair execs will ring the Nasdaq stock market closing bell on June 5 at 4 p.m. ET.
4. GANNETT BROADCASTING
2014 Revenue: $1.4 billion
Stations: 48 in 36 markets
Ownership: Gannett Co. (NYSE:GCI)
Key Executives: Majorie Magner, chairman, Gannett Co.; Gracia Martore, president-CEO, Gannett Co.; David Payne, chief digital officer; David Lougee, president, Gannett Broadcasting.
What’s Up: Gannett Co. said in April that it has chosen Tegna as the name for the new broadcasting and digital company expected to be spun off by the middle of this year. Gannett is in the process of creating two publicly traded companies: one exclusively focused on its broadcasting and digital businesses, and the other on its publishing business and affiliated digital assets. Tegna will trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol TGNA.
As it moves to separate broadcast and publishing operations, Gannett is actively exploring development of its own broadcast programming, CEO Gracia Martore said during a February earnings conference call. And Dave Lougee, president of Gannett Broadcasting, added that the company is looking at not only home-grown programming, but also cooperative ventures with other broadcasters.
5. NBCUNIVERSAL OWNED TELEVISION STATIONS (Telemundo)
2014 Revenue: $1.36 billion
Stations: 28 in 20 markets
Ownership: Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA)
Key Executives: Brian Roberts, chairman-CEO, Comcast Corp.; Steve Burke, CEO, NBCUniversal, and EVP, Comcast Corp.; Ted Harbert, chairman, NBC Broadcasting; Valari Staab, president, NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations.
What’s Up: David Cohen, EVP of Comcast, owner of NBCUniversal, said in a Q&A session following a speech in March, that when the FCC holds its incentive auction to buy TV spectrum next year, the NBC and Telemundo stations may be among the sellers.
6. TRIBUNE MEDIA
2014 Revenue: $1.3 billion
Stations: 51 stations in 32 markets
Ownership: Tribune Media Co. (NYSE:TRCO)
Key Executives: Bruce Karsh, chairman, Tribune Co., and president-co-founder of Oaktree Capital Management LLP; Peter Liguori, CEO, Tribune Co.; and Larry Wert, president, broadcast media; Lynda King, COO, broadcast media.
What’s Up: Tribune, along with Fox, Univision and Ion, met with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler at the beginning of the year, officially acknowledging their interest in selling spectrum in the FCC incentive auction next year by offering suggestions on how the auction should be conducted.
In February, former CNN news executive Bart Feder was tapped to oversee all news operations and production for Tribune’s 42 stations.
7. ABC OWNED TELEVISION STATIONS
2014 Revenue: $1.1 billion
Stations: 8 stations in 8 markets
Ownership: The Walt Disney Co. (Public: NYSE:DIS)
Key Executives: Robert Iger, chairman-CEO, Disney; Ben Sherwood, co-chair, Disney Media Networks and president, Disney/ABC Television Group; Rebecca Campbell, president, ABC Owned Television Stations Group.
What’s Up: With the addition of WABC New York, KABC Los Angeles, WLS Chicago, WPVI Philadelphia and WTVD Raleigh-Durham, N.C., the entire broadcast group is subscribing to Rentrak’s ratings measurement service.
8. MEDIA GENERAL
2014 Revenue: $990 million
Stations: 98 in 48 markets
Ownership: Media General (NYSE: MEG)
Key Executives: Vincent L. Sadusky, president-CEO; Deborah A. McDermott, SVP-COO; Robert S. Richter, SVP-chief digital officer.
What’s Up: In December 2014, Media General closed on its $1.6 billion merger with LIN Media. The merger increased Media General’s portfolio of stations from 32 to 71.
9. HEARST TELEVISION
2014 Revenue: $835 million
Stations: 37 in 28 markets
Ownership: Hearst Corp. (private)
Key Executives: Frank A. Bennack Jr., executive vice chairman, Hearst Corp.; Steven Swartz, president-CEO, Hearst Corp.; Jordan Wertlieb, president, Hearst Television Inc.
What’s Up: Hearst said in May that it’s selling ABC affiliate KITV Honolulu (as well as satellites KMAU Wailuku and KHVO Hilo) to SJL Broadcast Management for $21 million.
10. UNIVISION COMMUNICATIONS
2014 Revenue: $752 million
Stations: 60 in 25 markets
Ownership: Broadcasting Media Partners Inc., an investor group including Madison Dearborn Partners, Providence Equity Partners, TPG Capital, Thomas H. Lee Partners and Saban Capital Group.
Key Executives: Randy Falco, president-CEO, Univision Communications; Kevin Cuddihy, president, local media; Isaac Lee, president, news and digital.
What’s Up: Last year, Univision revamped its local media organization so now the it has just one general manager, as well as one sales director, in each the 12 markets where Univision has both TV and radio stations.
11. RAYCOM MEDIA
2014 Revenue: $685 million
Stations: 44 in 36 markets
Ownership: Employee owned
Key Executives: Paul McTear, president-CEO; Sandy Breland, VP-television; Don Richards; VP-television; Jeff Rosser, VP-television; Nick Simonette, VP-television; Brad Streit, VP-television; Susana Schuler, VP-news; David Burke, VP-technology; Joe Fiveash, VP-digital strategy & business development.
What’s Up: At the beginning of the year, Raycom hired Garrett Pope, a 13-year Univision executive, to head the new Raycom Centralized Traffic Operation, based in Charlotte, N.C., that will operate traffic for all the group’s stations.
12. E.W. SCRIPPS
2014 Revenue: $682 million
Stations: 35 in 24 markets
Ownership: E.W. Scripps Co. (NYSE: SSP)
Key Executives: Richard A. Boehne, chairman, president and CEO, E.W. Scripps Co.; Brian Lawlor, SVP, television; Adam Synsibm SVP, digital.
What’s Up: In April, the E.W. Scripps Co. completed the merger of its broadcast assets with those of Journal Communications and the spinoff of their respective newspapers. Scripps and Journal simultaneously spun off and merged their newspaper operations to form Journal Media Group. With the Journal stations, Scripps moved up two slots from last year’s TVN Top 30 ranking.
13. NEXSTAR BROADCASTING GROUP
2014 Revenue: $576 million
Stations: 76 in 58 markets
Ownership: Nexstar Broadcasting Group Inc. (NASDAQ:NXST)
Key Executives: Perry A. Sook, chairman-president-CEO; Timothy Busch, EVP/co-COO; Brian Jones, EVP-co-COO; Tom Carter, EVP-CFO; Tom O’Brien, EVP digital media & chief revenue officer.
What’s Up: Perry Sook will continue as president-CEO of the television station group he founded in 1996 through January 2019 with a new contract signed in January.
Earlier this year, Nexstar spent $33 million for Yashi Inc., which offers location-based targeting and programmatic technology and services for the online video advertising industry.
14. COX MEDIA GROUP
2014 Revenue: $572 million
Stations: 15 in 11 markets
Ownership: Cox Enterprises (private)
Key Executives: John M. Dyer, president-CEO, Cox Enterprises; Bill Hoffman, president, Cox Media Group; Neil Johnston, EVP, strategy & digital innovation, Cox Media Group; Jane Williams, EVP, television; Mike Joseph, EVP, Cox Media Group.
15. GRAY TELEVISION
2014 Revenue: $472 million
Stations: 86 in 47 markets
Ownership: Gray Television Inc. (NYSE: GTN)
Key Executives: Hilton Howell, president-CEO; James C. Ryan, SVP-CFO; Kevin Latek, SVP business affairs; Jason Effinger, SVP media relations and technology.
What’s Up: In March, Gray became the first affiliate to cut a TV Everywhere deal with with NBC. Then in April, Gray launched live linear streams of KKTV Colorado Springs, Colo.; KBTX Waco-Bryan-College Station, Texas; WCAV Charlottesville, Va.; WTVY Dothan, Ala.; and KXII Sherman, Texas, on the CBS All Access OTT service.
16. MEREDITH CORP.
Des Moines, Iowa
2014 Revenue: $441 million
Stations: 27 in 12 markets
Ownership: Meredith Corp. (NYSE: MDP)
Key Executives: Stephen M. Lacy, chairman-CEO; Paul Karpowicz, president, Meredith Local Media Group
What’s Up: In March, Meredith hired former WE tv President Kim Martin as chief strategy office to place a stronger emphasis on expanding Meredith’s millennial reach across the company’s multiple media platforms.
17. Graham Media Group
2014 Revenue: $280 million
Stations: 5 in 5 markets
Ownership: Graham Holdings Co. (NYSE: GHC)
Key Executives: Donald Graham, chairman-CEO, Graham Holdings Co.; Emily L. Barr, president-CEO, Graham Media Group.
What’s Up: Last July, the Post-Newsweek Stations group became the Graham Media Group division of Graham Holdings. The group also comprises Social News Desk, a provider of social media management tools designed to connect newsrooms with their users.
18. SUNBEAM TELEVISION CORP.
2014 Revenue: $221 million
Stations: 3 in 2 markets
Ownership: Ed Ansin
Key Executives: Ed Ansin, president; Chris Wayland, EVP-GM
2014 Revenue: $139 million
Stations: 61 in 24 markets
Ownership: Entravision Communications Corp. (NYSE: EVC)
Key Executives: Walter F. Ulloa, chairman-CEO; Christopher T. Young, EVP-CFO-treasurer; Jeffery A. Liberman, COO; Mario M. Carrera, chief revenue officer
20. CORDILLERA COMMUNICATIONS
St. Paul, Minn.
2014 Revenue: $134 million
Stations: 15 in 12 markets
Ownership: Evening Post Industries (private)
Key Executives: John Barnwell, CEO, Evening Post Industries; Terry Hurley, president; Cordillera; Dan Stein, director of programming and operations
21. HUBBARD BROADCASTING
St. Paul, Minn.
2014 Revenue: $132 million
Stations: 14 in 7 markets
Ownership: Hubbard family
Key Executives: Stanley S. Hubbard, chairman; Rob Hubbard, president, Hubbard Television Group
22. QUINCY NEWSPAPERS INC.
2014 Revenue: $126 million
Stations: 12 in 12 markets
Key Executives: Ralph M. Oakley, president-CEO; Dennis Kendall, director of broadcast news; Dan Batchelor, director of broadcast sales
What’s Up: Ralph Oakley, the CEO of Quincy Newspapers Inc. who represents the fifth generation in the family business, would like to move more deeply into TV broadcasting — if the FCC allows it. Why? Because he still sees upside in retrans, digital and possibly in ATSC 3.0.
23. ION MEDIA NETWORKS
West Palm Beach, Fla.
2014 Revenue: $95.3 million
Stations: 62 stations 56 markets
Key Executives: Brandon Burgess, chairman-CEO; David Glenn, broadcast operations
24. SCHURZ COMMUNICATIONS
2014 Revenue: $95.3 million
Stations: 9 stations in 8 markets
Key Executives: Scott C. Schurz Sr., chairman; Todd Schurz, president-CEO; Marci Burdick, SVP electronic
What’s Up: In March, the FCC fined Schurz’s CBS affiliate WDBJ Roanoke, Va., $325,000 — the maximum possible — for airing what the commission called “extremely graphic and explicit sexual content” during a July 2012 newscast.
25. WEIGEL BROADCASTING CO.
2014 Revenue: $89 million
Stations: 13 in 4 markets
Key Executives: Norman Shapiro, chairman; Neal Sabin, vice chairman; Steven Farber, SVP of broadcast operations; Jim Hall, VP of business development; Kyle Walker, VP of technology; Molly Kelly, corporate director of media strategy
What’s Up: Weigel continued its investments in multicast networks over the last year, launching H&I, which stands for Heroes and Icons, last September. Then, on May 25 in partnership with CBS, it debuted the Decades diginet, offering classic TV, movies and documentaries, many from CBS’s vast libraries, loosely organized around decades, plus an original daily newsmagazine about the recent past hosted by Bill Kurtis.
26. DISPATCH BROADCAST GROUP
2014 Revenue: $83 million
Stations: 2 stations in 2 markets
Key Executives: Michael J. Fiorele, vice chairman-CEO; John Cardenas, VP of news and president-GM, WBNS Columbus, Ohio; Larry Delia, VP-GM, WTHR Indianapolis
27. CAPITOL BROADCASTING CO.
2014 Revenue: $81 million
Stations: 4 in 2 markets
Key Executives: James F. Goodmon, president-CEO; Daniel P. McGrath, VP-treasurer; James F. Goodmon Jr., VP new media group
What’s Up: Capitol’s CBS affiliate WRAL Raleigh, N.C., has adopted rigorous standards for drone deployment as it learns how to operate them in preparation for the day the FAA approves their use in newsgathering.
28. GRIFFIN COMMUNICATIONS
2014 Revenue: $77 million
Stations: 3 in 2 markets
Ownership: Private (David, Kristen and John Griffin)
Key Executives: David Griffin, chairman-CEO; Ted Strickland, VP-CFO; Rob Krier, VP-COO
29. BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY
2014 Revenue: $72 million
Stations: 1 station
Ownership: Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK.A)
Key Executives: Warren Buffett, chairman-president-CEO; Charlie Munger, vice chairman
30. NEWS PRESS & GAZETTE CO.
St. Joseph, Mo.
2014 Revenue: $70.6 million
Stations: 25 in 10 markets
Ownership: Private (Bradley family)
Key Executives: David Bradley, chairman-CEO; Brian Bradley, president; John Kueneke, president, NPG Broadcast; Mike Meara, EVP-COO, NPG Broadcast; Tony Courtwright, director of digital media
What’s Up: Effective July 1, Mike Meara will succeed the retiring John Kueneke as president of the broadcasting division. Kueneke will stay on in an advisory role and will continue to represent the company on the NAB board.