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.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.