If you want to do something well, watch someone else do it. That’s the way to improve in most skills in life.
That’s one reason I read Scott Jones’ blog, FTVLive.com. Say what you want about him or his spelling, but he’s usually right on the money when it comes to facts, and won’t make claims without backing them up. In other words, I trust what he writes.
This morning, he had two blog posts about the latest attempt to create the nation’s largest local television station owner: Nexstar Media Group‘s effort to buy Tribune Media. (Last year, after a lot of opposition, Sinclair Broadcast Group was not allowed to make the purchase.)
When you get this big, things get complicated. The company gets up against against Federal Communications Commission ownership limits, as well as Department of Justice antitrust regulations.
Nexstar owns or operates 174 television stations in 100 mostly small to mid-sized TV markets, reaching nearly 38.7 percent of American households. The limit is 39 percent, and that’s with the FCC’s UHF discount, which only takes half the market’s people into account. Tribune owns or operates 42 stations, including the nation’s biggest cities.
The deal is that Nexstar will pay $4.1 billion for Tribune. Sinclair had offered $3.9 billion but according to USA Today, “breached its contract by misleading regulators during the transaction’s approval process.” Nexstar’s last major purchase was in 2017, when it bought 71 stations from Media General for $4.6 billion.
The ownership limits, which I explained in this post from last March, come into play because two large companies will already own stations in the same markets competing against each other, and will together own too many as a whole. That’s why some stations will need to be sold.
Briefly, the four categories of FCC rules are 1. national TV ownership, 2. local TV multiple ownership, 3. the number of independently owned “media voices” — 4. and at least one of the stations is not ranked among the top four stations in the DMA (that’s the “designated market area” or city, and ranking based on audience share), and at least eight independently owned TV stations would remain in the market after the proposed combination. (Keep in mind, these rules seem to get loosened every time a company comes close to hitting the limit.)
In the case of Nexstar and Tribune, there would be a long list involving about 15 cities. (Nexstar would do well by being honest in its effort to buy Tribune, as opposed to what Sinclair did and had been doing for years.)
Perry Sook, Nexstar’s president and CEO, started the company in 1996 with one station in Scranton, Pa. He has been buying ever since.
“We have no aspirations to be a national anything,” Sook said, according to Variety. “Our company goes from Burlington, Vermont to Honolulu and each of those communities have different needs and different tastes. We do three things that are vitally important: We produce local news content. We deliver entertainment and information. And we help local businesses sell stuff. Those are our reasons to exist.”
That’s contrary to Sinclair, which was reportedly interested in creating a national news network and using must-runs on its stations to spread its ownership’s conservative beliefs.
“Sources tell FTVLive that Nexstar is not planning on keeping WPIX in New York City after it purchases the station as part of the Tribune deal.”
So if Nexstar pretty-much owns so many stations in small to mid-sized TV markets, and claims to be solely interested in local broadcasting (while probably taking advantage of some scale), why leave out a station in the #1 TV market in the country, which itself broadcasts to about a whopping six percent of American households?
According to Scott,
“The spinning off of WPIX will help bring Nexstar under the ownership cap and it will likely put a lot of money back into the Nexstar back account.”
I’d rather see competition remain in New York. I can’t imagine Nexstar losing the power of selling ads on stations in every one of the biggest, influential, most lucrative cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Washington, etc.). And it could probably make money selling off many of its smaller market stations, have fewer people doing the same jobs on payroll, pay less for benefits like health insurance, have less regulatory paperwork to do, etc. But it could possibly achieve what Scott suggested in just one move.
Instead of Nexstar, I dread a New York competitor coming in and gutting WPIX’s news department, which has grown over the years from 30 minutes at 7:30pm and an hour at 10, to include morning and early evening news.
Among competitors, WCBS already owns WLNY (Long Island). WNBC already owns WNJU (Telenundo). WNYW (Fox) bought WWOR and got rid of its news department. That pretty much leaves WABC, which is said to be in the buying mood since owner Disney hasn’t bought stations in years, is not up against ownership limits, and has been said to be interested in Cox’s stations (especially its ABC affiliates in Atlanta, Orlando and Charlotte). A duopoly in New York would be good for WABC, but not the public, which owns the airwaves. But considering the other major stations already own second stations in the Big Apple, could WABC be refused?
Of course, Disney/ABC is already buying most of 21st Century Fox’s assets, including its TV and movie studios, and cable channels except news and business, for $71 billion. The New York Post reports the closing is expected in February or March, and Sinclair may end up buying Fox’s regional sports networks which Disney can’t keep (it already owns ESPN) and nobody else seems to want them.
The so-called New Fox would consist only of its TV stations, and its news and business cable channels. (Comcast/NBC wanted Fox’s entertainment assets but Disney/ABC offered more. Comcast is ending up with Fox’s share of European telecommunications and pay-TV giant Sky.)
“Along with spinning off WPIX in New York, Nexstar plans on selling off WSFL, the Tribune station in Miami.”
We’ve been through this before. Fox has a great Miami affiliate, WSVN, which is owned by Ed Ansin’s Sunbeam Television Corporation. In the 1980s, he wouldn’t sell to then-affiliate partner NBC, so the peacock bought WTVJ in early 1987 and took away WSVN’s #1 primetime programming on Jan. 1, 1989. WSVN became a Fox affiliate on the few days the new network broadcast back then and put its future into local news, more sensational back then, which has worked out well.
Then, just a few years ago, the same thing happened with Sunbeam’s WHDH in Boston. Ansin refused to sell to NBC so the peacock invented a station pretty much from scratch to put its programming. Since Boston already had a Fox affiliate (Miami’s went to CBS in 1989), WHDH is now completely independent, without a network, and worth much less.
So Fox has been selling off assets but is interested in buying TV stations (it had a deal to buy several from Sinclair after its merger with Tribune, which ended up falling through) and rights to live programming, especially sports and especially the National Football League. In the past, Fox wanted stations in cities with NFC teams because it broadcasts NFC team away games on Sunday afternoons. Then, it bought the rights to Thursday Night Football, which includes the whole league, so now it’s interested in stations in cities with AFC teams, like the Miami Dolphins.
I’ve shown you how networks have dumped highly-rated, loyal, long-time affiliate stations and went all-out to own stations in cities around the country, even if it meant starting a news department from nothing, which is exactly what WSFL has when it comes to news.
Why would Nexstar sell Tribune’s only Florida station when it doesn’t have much to show for itself in the Sunshine State? Good question! Nexstar only owns WFLA in Tampa, WKRG in Mobile/Pensacola and WMBB in Panama City. Maybe it knows it could get a great deal from Fox (perhaps part of a multi-station deal where Nexstar and Tribune have too many stations competing), or it knows global warming will have Florida under water sooner rather than later.
One thing I disagree on with Scott about Fox possibly buying WSFL is that WSVN would probably not exchange affiliations with that current CW affiliate and become the new one. That’s because CBS is a part owner of The CW and that affiliation would likely go to its second Miami station, WBFS, which would probably mean WSVN ends up with WBFS’ MyNetworkTV affiliation.
On the other hand, Philadelphia MyNetworkTV affiliate WPHL (owned by Tribune) airs off-network syndicated reruns from 8 to 10pm (a great idea!) and its MyNetworkTV obligations (pretty much syndicated dramas) air overnight. It also got rid of the “My” on its logo.
That’s the case because I verified WBFS-Miami and WWOR-New York air the same shows from 8 to 10pm (and Fox owns both WWOR and MyNetworkTV, so the shows will definitely run in pattern).
Anson’s WHDH — which has been independent for two years — airs Family Feud for an hour at 8 and local news from 9 to 11:35pm. So there are alternatives.
What’s going to happen? Are the reports from Scott true? If so, are they subject to change?
Again, we’ll have to sit back on our couches, and wait and see.
Disappointing news and news coverage
Last night, a woman was shot to death two blocks from my parents (and where I lived from the end of kindergarten, to leaving WSVN and moving to Connecticut, minus my three college years). It happened at about 5pm. I found out when my sister-in-law sent me a TV station’s screen-grab.
Turns out, the victim was a well-known real estate agent, who’d had her face and her dog’s on many bus benches while I was growing up. It happened outside her daughter’s house (same high school, two years older) and the gunman was her estranged son-in-law, who later killed himself.
In the early evening, between 7:30 and 8:30pm, I couldn’t find anything on WSVN’s website, and nonsense with very few facts from the network-owned stations.
WTVJ was a block off and WFOR had no location.
WPLG had the best coverage, with the right block, and video with a reporter at the scene during its newscast which ended at 6:30. But supposedly, the latest was on a different reporter’s personal, private Facebook page. We never met, but I went to school with his brother years ago, so he’s from the area and has contacts. I found out about his Facebook coverage when I got a call from one of our dozens of mutual friends (28, to be exact), and asked him about it — on Facebook.
Me: “Why did you put Highland Lakes shooting privately on your personal page, but not on your professional page for any interested parties?”
Him: “The station posts on my public”
Me: “I’m sorry. That sucks.”
Him: “Ok sorry”
Me: “I meant for you. I’m sure not everything they’ve posted has been perfect, or the way you would have.”
He doesn’t know what I do and have done for a living, and you see he didn’t realize I felt sorry for him apparently not being able to publish on social media pages that have his name and picture, and depending on others to do it right! His public Facebook page hasn’t been used in almost a month, and his work Twitter account was only used sporadically, not a few times daily like someone with contacts who goes out in the field, working to uncover facts — or simply a trusted reporter who watches the news and has followers who depend on him.
We know people on-air are not decision-makers but they should be trusted to publish on pages with their names and pictures, along with certain folks in the newsroom. Those people on-air with their names and pictures online will probably be the best at making sure what’s reported there is accurate and presented properly.
Who else would care as much?
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