Scott D. Pierce: KTVX’s owner is buying FOX 13’s owner — but one of those stations will have to be resold
(File photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/Associated Press) Perry Sook, chairman, president and CEO of Nexstar Broadcasting Group, attended the 24th Annual Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame Awards in New York in October 2014. Nexstar is offering to buy Chicago’s Tribune Media for about $4 billion. The offer would make Nexstar the biggest operator of local TV stations in the U.S.
The parent company of KTVX-Channel 4 is buying the parent company of KSTU-Channel 13 — but the stations will not all end up being owned by the same entity.
Nexstar Media, which counts KTVX and KUCW-Channel 30 among the 171 stations it currently owns, is buying Tribune Media
, which counts Utah’s FOX 13 among the 42 stations it owns. Federal Communications Commission regulations will not allow Nexstar to own both KTVX and FOX 13, so one or the other will have to be sold.
(Tribune Media, headquartered in Chicago, is in no way affiliated with The Salt Lake Tribune.)
The Nexstar-Tribune deal totals $4.1 billion in cash, $6.4 billion when you factor in assumed debt. And it comes in the wake of the collapse of a $3.9 billion deal in which Sinclair Broadcasting
, the parent company of KUTV-Channel 2, was attempting to buy Tribune.
While Sinclair fought to change or ignore FCC regulations, Nexstar has announced up front that it will sell or trade stations in at least 13 markets — including Salt Lake City — to comply with the rules.
(Those rules allow ownership of more than one station in a market, but one company can’t own two of the top four stations in that market.)
Whichever station Nexstar keeps in Salt Lake City, it will be part of the biggest television group in America. According to company officials, Nexstar will own 216 stations in 118 of the 210 largest markets in the country, including 18 of the top 25 and 37 of the top 50.
(The Salt Lake TV market is No. 30.)
That includes 14 Fox affiliates, 12 CW affiliates, six CBS affiliates, three ABC affiliates and two NBC affiliates. Nexstar, which owns 31 percent of the Food Network and the Cooking Channel, will also acquire the cable channel WGN America from Tribune as part of the deal.
This deal is expected to succeed where the previous one did not. Nexstar has not faced political controversy; Sinclair is often criticized for its right-wing political agenda.
Nexstar could, of course, elect to sell KTVX and keep FOX 13. That would certainly seem to make sense, given that FOX 13′s ratings and advertising revenue are considerably stronger than KTVX’s.
But for that very reason, selling FOX 13 might make more sense. That station would be worth more when it’s resold, and there’s already an interested buyer. Before the collapse of its attempt to buy Tribune, Sinclair had made a deal to sell seven stations — including KSTU — to Fox. Fox is reportedly still interested.
And in a conference call on Monday morning, Nexstar CEO Perry Sook said that he expects sales in 13 markets where his company and Tribune both own stations will bring in something in the neighborhood of $1 billion, offsetting the Tribune purchase price.
We’re still in a holding pattern on that, however. Sook said his team will present a plan to the FCC “soon,” and then we’ll know for sure which station will be on the block.
What does this all mean to Utah viewers? Well, unless you own stock in Nexstar or Tribune, nothing. At least not in the immediate future. You won’t notice any changes in local or network programming on Channels 4, 13 or 30.
You probably won't notice much (if any) difference even after either KTVX or FOX 13 is sold.
Deals like this rarely even come to the attention of many — most? — viewers.
Weirdly enough, this same thing happened in reverse 17 years ago. In 2001, the then-owner of FOX 13 (the Fox stations group) bought the then-owner of KTVX (United-Chris Craft) and sold KTVX to comply with FCC regulations.
Editor’s note: The Salt Lake Tribune is a content partner with FOX 13.