Tribune Company Acquires TV Stations

80s tv set graphic
Source: thinkstock
The owner of the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and other major daily newspapers is spending about $2.73 billion to acquire 19 TV stations in 16 markets. The Tribune Company already owns superstation WGN America and 23 other TV stations. The 19 stations Tribune is acquiring today are currently owned by Local TV Holdings, which is principally owned by Oak Hill Capital Partners. The Tribune Company trades in the over-the-counter markets under the symbol TRBNW.

Today’s acquisition is the latest in a string of media company mergers that began earlier this year when Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. (NASDAQ: SBGI) acquired Fisher Communications Inc. (NASDAQ: FSCI). A couple of months later, Gannett Company Inc. (NYSE: GCI) paid $2.2 billion for Belo Corp. (NYSE: BLC). Sinclair will own 134 TV stations in local markets after its deal is finalized, and Gannett will own 43. The Tribune Company will own 42, not counting WGN.

Here is what the Tribune had to say about today’s deal:

The scale provided by the Local TV acquisition will enable Tribune to maximize national and local advertising opportunities and take advantage of a larger footprint, across which it will distribute its video and digital content, especially that created by the recently launched Tribune Studios and Tribune Digital Ventures, as well as its best-in-class journalism. The acquisition will also lead to more meaningful conversations with affiliates about distribution, which is especially important to the future of WGN America. The benefits of the Local TV acquisition will translate into increased cash flow and, ultimately, greater shareholder value.

Once again, we have to wonder if these attempts by old-line media companies to scale up their TV holdings is coming too late to make any difference to their ability to survive. Internet-connected, over-the-top programming could eviscerate the broadcast and cable models in the same way that Web-based publishing hammered most newspapers.

Cable companies are at least one step ahead of these TV acquirers as they push into the world of streaming programming over high-bandwidth Internet connections. At this point, buying TV stations may be nothing more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

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