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Sinclair close to buying rival TV operator Tribune

09 Mai 2017

TV station operator Sinclair Broadcasting has agreed to acquire Tribune Media for $3.9 billion in a move that would expand its conservative-leaning program service to the three largest US markets.

Sinclair Broadcast Group announced Monday it will acquire Tribune Media Co. for $3.9 billion.

The deal will widely expand Sinclair's broadcast reach.

In St. Louis, it owns KTVI (Channel 2), a Fox affiliate, and KPLR (Channel 11), a CW affiliate. The company also owns and operates cable network WGN America, digital multicast network Antenna TV, and has minority stakes in the TV Food Network and CareerBuilder, and a variety of real estate assets. It was only the eighth TV commercial station to start operations in the United States.

For the moment, the fate of the deal rests in the hands of the Federal Communications Commission as well as the nation's antitrust regulators. The spinoff saddled Tribune Publishing, now Tronc, with $275 million in debt in order to pay a cash dividend to the parent company.

Shares of Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. rose 95 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $37.90 in morning trading Monday.

Jessell was part of a conference call with Chris Ripley, CEO of Sinclair, who said there are 14 markets where Tribune has stations that overlap with Sinclair.

The companies acknowledge that in order to secure FCC and antitrust approvals, Sinclair "may sell certain stations in markets where it now owns stations".

Tribune Media shares closed Friday at $40.29.

In Utah, Sinclair Broadcast Group owns KUTV, KJZZ and KMYU.

Late past year, Sinclair had to defend itself against news reports that it made a deal with Donald Trump's presidential campaign for favorable coverage in its newscasts.

The companies expect the deal to close in the fourth quarter after meeting regulatory approvals and closing conditions. The more stations a company owns or operates, the more leverage it has to demand higher retransmission fees.

Sinclair has promoted conservative leaning programming and there is speculation the company might use its acquisition of the Tribune Media properties as a springboard to create a national network of its own to challenge Fox News. More conspicuously, Sinclair produces news segments from its headquarters in suburban Maryland that run on its many local TV stations.

In March, CEO Peter Liguori stepped down from the position, which he held since 2013. Consolidation might be a free market mechanism, but it comes with costs to the free market as well, usually in the form of cronyism and rent-seeking regulation that distorts both markets and politics.

Sinclair close to buying rival TV operator Tribune