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Gannett to Buy Tribune’s WATL

Jun 5, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Gannett said Monday that it will pay $180 million to acquire Tribune’s WB affiliate in Atlanta, WATL-TV.

The transaction, which is expected to close later this year following a regulatory review, will bring to two the number of TV stations Gannett owns in the Atlanta market. The company already owns WXIA-TV, the NBC affiliate there. WATL will become a MyNetworkTV affiliate in September.

The sale of the Atlanta station is part of a broader strategy by Tribune to sell off assets seen as not essential as the company looks to jump-start its stock price. Last week Tribune announced it was launching a $2 billion stock repurchase program that would be partially paid for with proceeds from the sale of $500 million in nonstrategic assets, including certain television stations.

As reported in Monday’s issue of TelevisionWeek, WATL was one of a number of TV stations that Wall Street and industry sources said could be sold. Tribune’s other soon-to-be MyNetworkTV affiliates, WPHL-TV in Philadelphia and KTWB-TV in Seattle, are also considered candidates to be sold.

All three stations were WB affiliates but lost out on becoming CW affiliates when Tribune reached an affiliation agreement earlier this year with that network, which also launches in September and features TV shows from soon-to-be-shut-down The WB and UPN.