KSTU-Channel 13 used to be owned by Fox. It’s possible that it could soon end up being owned by Fox again.
But KSTU will not end up being owned by Sinclair Broadcasting, the parent company of KUTV-Channel 2, although Sinclair is in the process of buying KSTU’s parent company. Sinclair stipulated to that in a filing with the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday.
It’s not quite as confusing as it sounds.
In May 2017, Sinclair announced that it would buy Tribune Broadcasting and its 42 stations — including KSTU — for $3.9 billion, and assume another $2.7 billion in Tribune’s debt. The deal would create a TV station behemoth; Sinclair already owns or operates 173 stations across the country, including three in Utah — KUTV, KJZZ and KMYU.
(Tribune Broadcasting is not in any way affiliated with The Salt Lake Tribune.)
Under FCC rules, ownership of two of the top four rated/billing stations in the same market is prohibited. And KUTV and KSTU are first and second in the Salt Lake TV market. But, back in May, Sinclair chief Christopher S. Ripley said, “We don’t think we need to sell any of [Tribune’s stations] … and we hope that the regulators will agree with us.”
He did, however, name Salt Lake as one of three markets where he thought a divestiture would be most likely.
Sinclair has also fought against an FCC rule that limits an ownership group to coverage of no more than 39 percent of the country — but it has given up that fight. In a filing with the FCC on Wednesday, Sinclair announced it would sell Tribune stations in New York, Chicago and San Diego to come in under that 39 percent cap.
More important, that filing also asked for waivers in Indianapolis, Greensboro, N.C., and Harrisburg, Pa., so Sinclair could own more than one of the top four stations in those markets.
Most important, Sinclair did NOT ask for a waiver in Salt Lake City. This is one of eight markets where Sinclair stipulates it will divest itself of a Tribune-owned station to comply with the FCC’s duopoly rule.
Which means that, once Sinclair’s acquisition of Tribune is completed, it will sell or trade KSTU.
This comes amid negotiations with Fox, which reportedly hopes to buy as many as 10 stations from Sinclair. And KSTU is going to be on the market.
(KSTU-Channel 13 is a Fox affiliate, but it has not been owned by Fox since it was sold to a venture capitalist company in 2008, and subsequently sold to Tribune in 2013.)
Fox is most interested in buying stations in markets that have NFL teams, however, because it has deals with the NFL for Sunday and (as of this fall) Thursday games. There’s no NFL team in Utah, of course, so KSTU would not be at the top of the list of stations Fox wants to buy.
But it could be part of a bigger deal.
Again, what seems pretty clear at this point is that it won’t be part of Sinclair Broadcasting on anything more than a very temporary basis.
Stay tuned. …