Looking to free up funds for its $5 billion bid for Dow Jones, News Corp. announced Tuesday plans to sell nine of its Fox-affiliated TV stations.
The conglom has retained Allen & Co. to seek potential buyers for the outlets. News Corp. is specifically looking to exit markets below No. 15 in which it does not have a duopoly.
That includes several stations that — buoyed by Fox’s acquisition of NFL rights — flipped to Fox in 1993 under previous owner New World.
News Corp. then purchased New World in 1997, turning those outlets into Fox O&Os. It was those strong, mostly VHF stations that helped launch Fox into the major network big leagues and hurt CBS (which previously aired on most of those outlets) in the process.
Stations on the block include WJW Cleveland; KDVR Denver; KTVI St. Louis; WDAF Kansas City, Mo.; WITI Milwaukee; KSTU Salt Lake City; WBRC Birmingham, Ala.; WHBQ Memphis; and WGHP Greensboro, N.C.
Fox did decide to keep its two smallest-market stations, however: KTBC, Austin (market 52) and WOGX, Ocala-Gainesville, Fla. (market 162). In the case of WOGX, the station actually operates out of Fox’s Orlando station — and therefore acts as an unofficial duopoly. And with KTBC, Fox operates the only VHF station in the market and likely didn’t want to give up that position. (The company also owns several other Texas stations, including outlets in Dallas-Ft. Worth and Houston, which can share resources with the Austin O&O).
News Corp. owns 35 stations in the U.S.; the sale would bring that number down to 26.