No Station Shopping Spree for ABC

ABC’s owned-and-operated station group is likely to remain much smaller than that of rival networks, but that’s no problem for stations chief Walter Liss.

Speaking Moday at A.G. Edwards’ media investor conference, Liss says that prices for large-market stations remain too high for ABC to expand anytime soon.

ABC’s stations are in markets covering around 23% of U.S. TV homes, significantly smaller than the coverage of NBC, Fox and CBS’s groups, which range from  35% to 45% (the cap is 39%, but Fox has a waiver).

Liss says that smaller size doesn't  matter, particularly if the alternative is buying for buying's sake.

ABC is in the top five markets and its stations have long held onto the best product from syndicator King World, though that compnay is co-owned with CBS.

“The syndicators love to be on our television stations, as evidenced by Oprah Winfrey, Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune," he said, "which we have had long-term relationships with. It is an absolutely fabulous relationship that we have with not only Oprah but with King World."

Liss says Disney looks at station buys all the time, but the prices don’t make sense. “It is one of the reasons we haven't done duopoly deals. Not that there is anything wrong with a duopoly.  But if you pay too much for it, then there is a lot wrong with that from a financial standpoint.”

“If we're going to do a deal, we're going to do a deal that will move the needle for the company.”