Nexstar's Sook Sees Major Broadcast Consolidation Continuing
Buoyed by strong third-quarter earnings and yet another
multistation acquisition, Perry Sook, president and CEO of Nexstar, painted a
compelling picture of the local TV universe a few years out, with 10-12 truly
substantial station groups left, and Nexstar very definitely one of them.
"It's very inefficient for groups outside of the top 10
operators," he told investors on Nexstar's earnings call. "I think the
industry will be made up of 10-12 major companies -- the four national content
providers [network O&O groups], and 6-8 distribution partners that are
substantial in size, with around 20% of U.S. coverage."
Sook envisions Nexstar as one of the last groups standing --
pulling in around a billion in revenue. He noted that Nexstar is about 70%
there; its recent acquisitions will give Nexstar around 12.3% U.S. coverage.
Nexstar acquired 12 stations from Newport TV in July, which closes Dec. 1, and
worked out a pair of acquisitions Nov. 5 for five more stations.
One of the deals from this week had a different buyer lined
up, until a credit issue cratered the agreement.
"We've said it before -- we may not be the highest
price, but we can get to the finish line," said Sook. "That came into
play in this acquisition."
One of the more active buyers in the business, Nexstar also
sold KBTV Beaumont to Sinclair, which Sook called "a win for both
Nexstar will continue to examine new properties, with a couple
black books on Sook's desk. "Our criteria is, an accretive acquisition in
markets we can inherit a new duopoly, or ones with a fairly clear path to
create one," said Sook, who noted the company would be "very disciplined"
in what it would pay.
Nexstarreported a 20% gain in quarterly earnings Nov. 6, paced by political
spending and national ad revenue, though the latter's 18.4% gain over the
previous third quarter was largely a function of a key auto dealer switching
from the local to national category.
As Nexstar grows, Sook said it is unlikely the group will
sell broadcast spectrum to the government. "We'll have an open mind and
look at the value proposition," he said. "But I think it would be a
stretch for us to participate. I think anyone making money in commercial
television would be hard pressed to sell their spectrum."
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.
By Kent Gibbons