FCC Finally Gives the Go-Ahead for Tribune Sale to Nexstar Media Group

Early this week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a pending media acquisition that will result in the largest local TV station ownership group in the United States.  According to the Chicago Tribune, the FCC gave a green light to the Nexstar Media Group acquisition of Chicago-based Tribune Media for a reported $4.1 billion. 

In a statement, the FCC said, “The Commission found that the proposed merger would provide several public interest benefits to viewers of current Tribune and Nexstar stations. For example, viewers would benefit from their local stations having increased access to Nexstar’s Washington DC, news bureau, and state new bureaus.  Additionally, Nexstar demonstrated that it would invest savings resulting from the merger into its stations, including investments in ATSC 3.0, the next-generation television broadcast standard.”

Nexstar began with a simple purchase of one TV station, in Scranton, PA, more than 20 years ago.  Since then the media company has expanded, obviously, to become quite the conglomerate with 174 stations, most of which in small and midsize markets across the United States.  This acquisition, then, gives Nexstar yet more broadcasting history with increased market weight by adding another 42 stations. For example, this deal includes WGN-Ch 9, in Chicago; as well as cable channel WGN American and WGN-AM 720. 

The statement continues, “Nexstar has agreed to sell 21 stations in 16 markets—including Tribune-owned WPIX-TV in New York—to comply with FCC and Department of Justice ownership restrictions. The company is planning to use the $1.36 billion in gross proceeds to help fund the Tribune acquisition and reduce debt.”

It should be noted that this settlement requires that Nexstar-Tribune must sell off television stations in 13 markets.  The United States Department of Justice made this requirement asserting that without this divestment, the newly-expanded company would, most likely, be able to charge cable and satellite companies much higher retransmission consent fees to carry their stations. This, of course, would result in escalating monthly cable and satellite bills for millions of subscribers across America. 

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