Scripps becomes biggest indie ABC affiliate operator

McGraw-Hill is exiting the broadcast biz, selling its nine TV stations to E.W. Scripps for $212 million in cash in a deal that turns Scripps into the nation’s largest independent operator of ABC stations.

The new stations include ABC affiliates in Denver (KMGH), San Diego (KGTV), Bakersfield, Calif. (KERO) and Indianapolis (WRTV) — as well as Azteca America affiliates in Denver, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs, Colo., plus San Diego and Bakersfield.

Scripps will count 10 ABC affils among its expanded roster of 19 stations. The Cincinnati-based company’s portfolio already includes six ABC affiliates (in Detroit, Tampa, Fla., Cleveland, Phoenix, Cincinnati and Baltimore), three NBC affils (West Palm Beach, Fla., Kansas City, Mo., and Tulsa, Okla.) and one independent (Lawrence, Kan.). The consolidated station group will reach about 13% of U.S. households vs. 10% before the deal.

“We’ve looked at several recent opportunities, but the McGraw-Hill stations were the first ones that truly energized our management team,” said Brian Lawlor, Scripps senior VP of television, in a statement. “In recent years we have ramped up our commitment to unique, high-quality local news, and we’re eager to have these new stations join us in that drive for success.”

Transaction is subject to regulatory approval. Scripps said that because interest rates are so low, it opted to finance the deal through new debt. Company had $153 million in cash on its balance sheet as of Aug. 31.

Scripps also owns newspapers in 14 markets, the Scripps Howard News Service and the United Media syndication company.

McGraw-Hill, which owns Standard & Poor’s ratings agency, has been unloading media assets to focus on financial information and education. It sold BusinessWeek to Bloomberg in 2009.

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