In the deal, Tegna is acquiring the roughly 85% of Justice Network and Quest that it does not currently own from Cooper Media. The transaction, which values the networks at $91 million, is expected to be close by the end of the second quarter.
Brian Weiss, president and GM of Cooper Media, will join Tegna and continue to run Justice Network and Quest, which are based in Atlanta.
Tegna said it will finance the transaction through the use of available cash and borrowing under its existing credit facility, and does not expect it to have a material impact on the company’s leverage.
The two networks reach more than 87 million U.S. TV homes. Multicast networks have emerged over the past decade-plus as broadcast spectrum capacity increased, offering programmers opportunities to mount targeted, cable-style operations based on inexpensive acquisitions. Station group E.W. Scripps acquired one of the leading multicasters, Katz Broadcasting for $302 million in 2017.
Also in 2017, Tegna and Cooper announced the launch of Quest, which offers science, history, engineering and adventure fare. Justice Network launched in 2015, focusing on true crime, mystery and investigation.
“Consumer viewing habits are shifting toward over-the-air consumption supplemented by inexpensive over-the-top services,” Tegna CEO Dave Lougee said. “Justice and Quest allow us to fully capitalize on the growth in over-the-air television audiences, which has increased by more than 48% over the past eight years.”
Lonnie Cooper, chairman of Cooper Holdings, said the “timing is right” to exit the business of Justice and Quest. “It has been an honor to work with Tegna to build Justice Network and Quest from the ground up, while informing and entertaining the growing over-the-air audience,” Cooper said.