As Sinclair Broadcast Group continues to streamline its portfolio of local TV stations ahead of federal regulatory approval of its acquisition of Tribune Media, it has sold seven station to 21st Century Fox for $910 million. The deal had long been rumored as “New Fox” (what will remain after most of the company is sold to Disney or Comcast) repositions itself around broadcast TV, sports and local news.
The stations include KCPQ in Seattle; WSFL in Miami; KDVR in Denver; WJW in Cleveland; KTXL in Sacramento; KSWB in San Diego and KSTU in Salt Lake City. After the purchase, Fox Television Stations will reach nearly half of all U.S. households, with presence in 19 of the top 20 DMAs. Many of the markets line up with Fox’s sports rights.
In a separate announcement, Sinclair said it has finalized plans to sell $1.5 billion worth of station assets and in its newly downsized form will reach 62% of U.S. households, but 37.4% according to FCC rules limiting station ownership. CEO Chris Ripley and other executives will provide updates on the transaction during a conference call with Wall Street analysts to discuss quarterly results.
21st Century Fox has also entered into new network affiliation agreements with Sinclair (and licensees of certain stations to which Sinclair provides services), and will grant Sinclair options to acquire two of its stations, the CW-affiliate WPWR in Chicago, IL, where FTS currently has a duopoly, and FOX-affiliate KTBC in Austin, TX for potential proceeds of approximately $15 million and $160 million, respectively.
“This transaction illustrates Fox’s commitment to local broadcasting and we are pleased to add these stations to our existing portfolio,” said Jack Abernethy, CEO of Fox Television Stations. “With this acquisition, we will now compete in 19 of the top 20 markets and have a significantly larger presence in the west, which will enhance our already strong platform. This expansion will further enrich our valuable alignments with the NFL, including our new Thursday Night Football rights, MLB and college sports assets. We are also happy to add many talented Tribune employees to our group, some of whom we know well.”
In an email to Tribune employees, interim CEO Peter Kern wrote, “Fox has long been an important partner for Tribune Media. We are the largest Fox-affiliated station group in the country, so there is already great familiarity between our companies and our people, and I expect our stations will enjoy tremendous success as part of the Fox family. Importantly for all of us, this announcement should set the stage for the FCC’s regulatory review to move forward.”
The station transfer from Sinclair to Fox is expected to close in the second half of 2018 and will be reviewed by regulators scrutinizing the $4.6 billion Sinclair-Tribune deal.