Petry TV takes on Fox empire

In what may boost rep firm Petry Television’s efforts to take the company public, the Fox Television Stations are expected as early as today to unveil a deal giving Petry responsibility for national ad sales at all 22 of the Fox and former New World TV stations.

Sources say Petry will likely form a separate division to handle the Fox O&O ad sales, which will total about $550 million a year and an estimated 55% of all Petry billing. The new contract not only gives Petry much more exten-sive ties to Fox, but one clause actually stipulates that Fox could someday buy a piece of Petry, if federal rules are changed to allow it.

Right now, networks are prohibited from repping stations they don’t own, and while the FCC is evaluating the rule, it does not appear that any changes are imminent. If Fox were ever allowed to own a piece of Petry, it’s unclear whether Petry clients that are not Fox affiliates would defect. Of course, affiliates would likely fight such a rule, and if it were relaxed, all the networks would probably try to rep their respective affiliates.

While details regarding the length and exact terms of the Fox-Petry deal have not been revealed, sources speculate the two companies may be forming a joint venture, with Fox taking a cut of the profits from the ad sales commis-sions. Katz Television struck a similar long-term deal with group owner Chris-Craft, and the two companies now share facilities.

The expanded Fox-Petry deal results in some large station clients switching from several other rep firms, and it signals that Fox is likely to shut down or fold into Petry the operations of New World’s sales and marketing divi-sion.

Fox had considered handling all ad sales inhouse for its stations, which reach 35% of the country, but sources say the stations couldn’t get such a plan together in time for the upcoming upfront market. News Corp.’s purchase of New World was completed just last week.

Petry previously repped Fox O&Os in the top markets of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston. Seltel handled and will now lose its Fox client in Denver. Telerep also will lose several Fox stations, including the O&O in Washington, D.C.

If Petry does indeed take the company public, the Fox deal could be a swan song for Petry chairman and CEO Thomas Burchill, sources say. Petry and Fox executives declined comment.

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