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Dec 30, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Monday, Dec. 30

Acme sells two stations to Tribune

Acme Communications will take a big bite out of its debt with the sale of WB-affiliated KPLR-TV in St. Louis and KWBP-TV in Portland, Ore., to Tribune Co. for $275 million.

The deal, which was announced today, is expected to close late in the first quarter of 2003. It will give Tribune, which owns 22 percent of The WB and is the largest WB affiliate group with 19 stations, a total of 26 stations, with 18 of them in Top 30 markets.

“As large-market WB affiliates, these two stations will fit extremely well into our television group,” said Tribune President and Chief Operating Officer Dennis FitzSimons. “This is consistent with our strategy objective of extending Tribune’s reach to serve local viewers and advertisers in Top 30 markets.”

KPLR, which Tribune Television President Pat Mullen noted is “one of the highest-rated WB affiliates in the country,” will be acquired for cash. The KWBP transaction will be structured as a tax-deferred asset exchange funded partly with $55 million from the proceeds of the sale of Tribune’s Denver radio stations, a deal also expected to close late in the first quarter.

Jamie Kellner, who founded The WB and who doubles as Acme chairman and CEO and Turner Broadcasting System chairman, said the sale puts Acme “in a position to pay down nearly all of our debt … [and] to pursue strategic acquisitions that are in line with our core portfolio of growing, midsized WB affiliates.”

NBC’s Russert maintains Sunday ratings lead: The Sunday newsmaker race continues to go to NBC’s “Meet the Press With Tim Russert” with the only surprises related to which competitor comes in second on any given week. On Dec. 22, “Meet’s” traditional spiritually oriented program, featuring first lady Laura Bush, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, averaged 4.037 million viewers, according to data from Nielsen Media Research.

ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos,” which unveiled the three women whistleblowers named the person of the year by Time magazine, averaged 2.871 million. CBS’s “Face the Nation” averaged 2.574 million and “Fox News Sunday” averaged 1.256 million.CBS’s reformatted ‘Early Show’ sees numbers improve: “The Early Show” on CBS had its biggest week in 10 months Dec. 16-20, when the recently reformatted show averaged 2.91 million viewers, up from 2.74 million viewers the comparable week in 2001. That’s an increase of 5 percent.

NBC’s “Today” won the week with an average 6.14 million, also up 5 percent, from 5.86 million a year ago. ABC’s “Good Morning America” finished second for the week with an average 4.72 million, down 3 percent from 4.84 million a year ago.Denver retransmission dispute enters critical phase: Denver’s ABC affiliate, McGraw-Hill-owned KMGH-TV, and local cable system AT&T Broadband are working to resolve a dispute about their retransmission agreement by its expiration tomorrow at midnight.

If the two parties don’t reach an agreement, the ABC station may not be available to AT&T subscribers Jan. 1, when ABC will telecast popular college football games the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl. The impasse has caused a heated fight in the Denver media. The cable operator has run full-page ads in the local newspapers claiming that “Channel 7 is threatening to take ABC away,” while Channel 7 has broadcast spots stating that AT&T plans to pull its programming.

“We will not pull their station off our network unless they force us to do so,” said Jeannine Hansen, a spokesperson for AT&T Broadband.

At the heart of the dispute is KMGH’s desire to launch a 24-hour Denver news channel, for which it wants carriage guaranteed by the AT&T system as part of retransmission renewal.