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Yager Is Back, and He's Buying Stations

Jim Yager is running a station group again in what looks suspiciously like the second coming of Benedek Broadcasting. The head of Benedek until its 2002 merger with Gray Television, he has struck a deal for three TV stations in midsize markets—two of which, in fact, used to belong to Benedek.

It marks the first of what is expected to be a number of purchases in 2004 for Barrington Broadcasting and its cadre of Benedek alumni.

The company would not comment on the price, but a source put it at $42 million to $48 million.

Barrington last week bought ABC affiliate WHOI-TV Quincy, Ill., and CBS affiliate KHQA-TV Quincy from Chelsey Broadcasting Co. and NBC affiliate WEYI-TV Flint-Saginaw, Mich., from LIN TV.

Yager and company didn't have to do any tire-kicking on the Chelsey stations. They are part of a group of eight Benedek stations that didn't go to Gray but were instead spun off into Chelsey—essentially a holding company—but have been managed by Barrington.

Barrington was formed in the beginning of 2003, but, says Chris Cornelius, president and CEO of the group and a former Benedek executive, "it has taken us until now to identify the stations we wanted and complete the deals."

According to Keith Bland, senior vice president, acquisition and development, and another Benedek alumnus, Barrington's strategy will be to assemble a group that plays to their experience, which is mid- to small-market stations primarily east of the Rockies. Barrington is based in Hoffman Estates, Ill.

Although the company's strategy takes it to markets where the FCC currently bars duopolies and the cost-efficiencies that make them increasingly popular with broadcasters, Yager sees other opportunities to grow his stations, including through digital multicasting. He considers mandatory carriage of all of broadcasters' multicast signals "absolutely critical" to that strategy.

Unlilke Barrington, LIN TV Chairman Gary Chapman said last week, the chain will be "completely focused on its duopoly strategy in markets where we can realize the financial operational benefits of operating more than one television station."

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.