TV Station Group Going Up on the Block — And One Major Station Is the Crown Jewel

Jul 19, 2013  •  Post A Comment

Bids are due Monday on a television station group that’s up for sale, and the consensus among industry watchers is that it will probably be sold to two separate bidders. TVNewsCheck.com reports that Allbritton Communicatons, which has a total of eight stations, is likely to sell its flagship station, WJLA-TV in Washington, to one bidder and the other seven to another bidder.

The odds-on favorite to end up with WJLA is Disney-ABC.

The piece cites an unnamed source in the financial community, commenting on Disney-ABC’s chances, saying: "I would not be surprised and would be surprised at the same time. Just to have a station in Washington would make sense. But they have not bought a TV station in a long time."

The report notes: "One reason Disney-ABC might have the inside track on WJLA: The station’s ABC affiliation gives the network the right to approve the transfer of the affiliation to a new owner. When Young Broadcasting infamously outbid NBC for KRON in San Francisco in 1999, NBC pulled its affiliation. Young, unable to ever overcome the economic body blow, was forced into bankruptcy in 2009."

As for the rest of the Allbritton stations, one investment banking insider says it’s all about the ability to acquire duopolies.

"Gaining a duopoly is the most powerful driver behind broadcasting M&A," said Michael Alcamo of M.C. Alcamo & Co. "So the directions that Allbritton’s stations will ultimately go will most likely be determined by who can establish duopolies in those markets."

The report adds: "Other possible bidders for Allbritton (possibly including WJLA), are Sinclair, Nexstar, Hearst, LIN, Meredith, Raycom, Scripps and Tribune. A key consideration is the duopoly potential in Allbritton’s other markets: Birmingham, Ala. (DMA 42), Harrisburg, Pa. (DMA 43), Little Rock, Ark. (DMA 56), Tulsa, Okla. (DMA 59), Roanoke, Va. (DMA 68), and Charleston, S.C. (DMA 98)."

Sinclair and Nexstar may be the strongest contenders, the piece notes. "Sinclair has stations in Birmingham and Harrisburg and Nexstar has stations in Harrisburg and Little Rock," the story reports. "LIN has a station in Birmingham, as does Raycom. Scripps has an overlap in Tulsa. Tribune, which recently came out swinging with its $2.73 billion Local TV/FoxCo acquisition, has a station in Harrisburg."

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