Paxson looks to raise cash, focus on bigger markets

Acme Television, the station group headed by WB Network chief Jamie Kellner, and Pax TV parent Paxson Communications are finding common ground with station deals in smaller TV markets.

Acme has inked a $40 million deal to buy three stations from cash-strapped Paxson, which has been looking to raise $50 million-$75 million by selling some of its outlets in smaller markets.

Paxson said Tuesday it is focused on plowing its resources into the larger TV markets and announced a separate deal to buy a station in Pittsburgh, WPCB, for $30 million.

For Acme, the deal with Paxson promises to plug key holes in the WB Network’s broadcast affiliate lineup before the planned cutoff this fall of the netlet’s carriage on the WGN cable superstation.

“Acme Television is committed to aggressively acquiring broadcast properties, especially in markets where the WB doesn’t currently have a primary broadcast affiliate,” Kellner said.

Acme will switch the Paxson outlets in Dayton, Ohio; Green Bay, Mich. and Champaign-Decatur, Ill. to WB affils immedi-ately, although the stations will continue to carry some Pax TV programming under a secondary affiliation agreement. Speculation is that there may be more Acme-Paxson deals in the near future, given the mutually beneficial circumstances for both companies.

Acme also is partnering with Paxson in a market where it already owns station, Knoxville, Tenn., wherein the managers of Acme’s WBXX will take over local advertising sales for Paxson’s WPXK.

That deal could also be harbinger of deals to come for Paxson in other markets and with other broadcast groups. Paxson’s business plan for Pax TV calls for the web to reap most of its coin from local ad sales, but the netlet has had trouble recruiting seasoned sales reps.

Partnerships with established stations on a commission or percentage of revenue basis could ease the drain on Paxson for staff and administrative expenses at its 70-plus stations nationwide.

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