Sinclair Boosts Spin-Offs in Re-Filed Deal

As expected, Sinclair has refiled its proposed Tribune deal with the FCC, but with at least one big change: It plans to hold on to WPIX TV New York, the nation's top market, and will spin off more stations.

The goal is to get the deal past antitrust vetters at Justice and public interest reviewers at the FCC.  It is the fourth variation of the deal to be submitted as Sinclair attempts to do just that.

Sinclair had initially signaled it would be spinning off both WPIX and WGN TV Chicago.

Also new are plans to sell Tribune stations in big markets--Denver, Sacramento, Cleveland, Dallas, Houston and Miami.

Sinclair will also sell its own stations, rather than Tribune's, in several markets where they both own stations: Seattle, Salt Lake, Oklahoma City, Greensboro, Richmond, Wilkes Barre, and Des Moines.

[Sinclair Re-Filing Tribune Deal...Again]

Sinclair will sell 23 stations in 18 markets, including to buyers it has identified as Standard Media Group LLC (an affiliate of Standard General LP), Meredith Corporation (NYSE: MDP) (“Meredith”), Howard Stirk and Cunningham Broadcasting. No mention of Fox, though there is one as-yet-unidentified buyer for the big-market Tribune stations.

The FCC has been waiting for the latest version of the deal before re-starting its informal shot clock.

“After a very robust divestiture process, with strong interest from many parties, we have achieved healthy multiples on the stations we are divesting,” said Sinclair President Chris Ripley. “While we continue to believe that we had a strong and supportable rationale for not having to divest stations, we are happy to announce this significant step forward in our plan to create a leading broadcast platform with local focus and national reach. The combined company will continue to advance industry technology, including the Next Generation Broadcast Platform, and to benefit from synergistic revenue and expense value.”

Below, from Sinclair, are the stations being sold, and to whom:

"We've known for nearly a year that change was coming, but as I've said before, there is no reason to assume that this change won’t be for the better," said Tribune CEO Peter Kern in an internal memo. "Whether your parent company is Sinclair or any of the other media companies identified in today’s filing, you are the key ingredient to their ultimate success.  Each of them will have their own unique opportunities and challenges, but each needs talented, experienced and dedicated employees like you."

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.