Meredith sells WFSB and 16 other TV channels for $ 2.7 billion



WFSB’s parent company is selling the Rocky Hill-based TV station and 16 other broadcast points to Gray Television in a $ 2.7 billion deal, the companies said in a deal announced Monday.

Meredith Corp. is structured so that the company essentially sells its entire portfolio of television stations, while retaining its National Media Group operating division, which has the country’s largest magazine portfolio as well as digital and marketing assets, according to reports. responsible for the company.

While Atlanta-based Gray Television acquires all of Meredith’s outstanding shares, the Iowa-based company will sell the National Media Group to its existing shareholders immediately before the transaction closes, which is expected to take place in the fourth. quarter of this year.

The deal requires various regulatory approvals, including from the Federal Communications Commission.

Besides WFSB, which is a subsidiary of CBS, the only other New England station Meredith owns is WGGB in Springfield, Massachusetts, which is affiliated with ABC and Fox as well as WSHM, a low-power television station. affiliated with CBS. .

Of the 17 stations sold, all but four are in the 40 largest television markets in the United States.

WFSB is part of the Hartford-New Haven Market, which is the 32nd largest in the country.

The deal will make Gray Television the second largest television broadcaster in the country, serving 113 local markets and reaching about 36 percent of US television households.

Hilton Howell, Executive Chairman and CEO of Gray Television, said the cultures and commitments of Meredith Television to local markets “are very complementary.”

“Building on our successes throughout 2020 and the first months of 2021, Gray Television clearly has an even stronger and brighter future than ever! Said Howell.

The merger of the two station portfolios will force Gray to sell only one of its existing television stations, WNEM, in Michigan’s Flint-Saginaw market.

Rich Hanley, associate professor of journalism at Quinnipiac University, said Meredith was looking to consolidate her media stakes and chose the most profitable magazine sector over local television. Meredith was founded in 1902 when she began publishing “Successful Farming” magazine and two decades later launched what would become “Better Homes and Gardens” in 1924.

“Meredith’s expansion into television has always been strange,” Hanley said. “What the magazine industry needs is very different from what local TV stations need.”

Magazines are attractive to advertisers, he said, because they are designed not to be viewed on a whim, but rather to “be part of the fabric of the lives of millions of people.”

“[Magazines] are designed to be read over the course of a week or, in some cases, an entire month, ”Hanley said. “It’s a good vehicle for advertisers because unlike television, where the material viewed is consumed instantly. The eyes of consumers have time to dwell on the content as well as the advertising.

Gray’s television strategy so far has been to become the dominant station in the small and medium-sized markets, he said.

“These are the number one stations in 70 of the 94 markets the company already has a presence in,” Hanley said. “This deal gives them enormous market power, both in terms of advertising and negotiating affiliate agreements.”

Affiliate agreements are agreements broadcast networks enter into with local stations to broadcast their national programming, he said.

“These deals are worth a lot of money for local stations,” Hanley said.

If approved by federal regulators, the sale of WFSB would represent the third time that a Connecticut television station has been sold in the past three years.

Texas-based Nexstar Broadcasting Group acquired WTNH and sister station WCTX in January 2017. WTIC Fox 61 and its sister station, WCCT, were acquired by Virginia-based Tegna in September 2019.

Of the four major commercial TV stations in the Connecticut market, only WVIT NBC-CT will have the same owner during this period if the Gray deal for WFSB is concluded.

Hanley said the pace of TV station sales in Connecticut shows “that it is still an attractive market … It is relatively stable and there is decent enough disposable income in the market to attract. advertisers, especially car dealers, who are the backbone of local television channels.

Hanley said he didn’t expect Gray’s executives to come to make any drastic changes to the WFSB. If anything, he said, Gray will likely come and invest in new technology and equipment.

“They won’t do anything flashy, but they will do whatever is necessary to compete and keep the station at or near the top of the market,” Hanley said.

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