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Station M&A Activity Slowed Down in 1Q

Broadcast station merger and acquisition volume slowed to $184.9 million in the first quarter of 2015, according to SNL Kagan.

The station business has been in consolidation mode and up until the fourth quarter of 2014, the industry had seen seven straight quarters in which station sales topped $1 billion. The fourth quarter total was $778.1 million.

In the first quarter, TV station deals accounted for $31.7 million of the volume. Radio accounted for $147.8 million.

"Looking forward, despite no lack of companies still interested in expanding their broadcast portfolios, volume could remain at lower levels in 2015," Kagan said in its report. "Working against the M&A market are leverage concerns at some of the larger radio companies, as well as the uncertainties surrounding the pending FCC incentive auction and its tantalizing potential for huge payouts to TV-station owners."

Kagan said prices for TV station are hovering at 8 times cash flow.  That level has become the new normal, following the double-digit multiples seen in the late 1990s through the early 2000s.