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Meredith Creates Duopoly-Lite

Meredith Broadcasting Corp. has come as close as you can get to buying a station in a market where Federal Communications Commission rules prevent it.

Forced into that creativity by ownership rules that remain in limbo, Meredith has agreed to pay $26.8 million dollars for the nonlicense assets of KSMO, a struggling WB affiliate there in Kansas City. Those assets comprise the building, tower and staffers. That is more like a hefty upfront payment than the actual value of those assets, however.

Meredith will pay another $6.7 million for the license--again, probably far less than it is worth--if FCC rules ultimately permit it to own a duopoly there. Meredith already owns KCTV Kansas City, a CBS affiliate.

In the meantime, it will seek a failed-station wavier from the FCC, which can allow otherwise impermissible duopolies if it is to save a distressed station. Meredith also has also signed a joint sales agreement with the station.

That means that Meredith can take over all sales for the station, which it will handle through KCTV, and can determine 15% of the station's programming.

It plans to continue the WB affiliation. Spokesman Art Slusark says that the WB's younger-skewing lineup will complement CBS's traditionally older-skewing schedule.

Meredith already has one duopoly, in Portland, Ore., but is searching for other creative ways to expand "given the current regulatory environment," said Slusark.